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Have your own 
extra-terrestrial 
adventure 

Douglas Hill 




SPARROW 
BOCOCS 



A Sparrow Book 

Published by Arrow Books Limited 
17-21 Conway Street, London WIP 6JD 

An imprint of the Hutchinson Publishing Group 

London Melbourne Sydney Auckland 
Johannesburg and agencies 
throughout the world 

First pubUshed 1983 
(c) Douglas Hill 1983 

This book is sold subject to the condition that it shall not, by way of 
trade or otherwise, be lent, resold, hired out, or otherwise 
circulated without the publisher's prior consent in any form of 
binding or cover other than that in which it is published and without 
a similar condition including this condition being imposed on the 
subsequent purchaser. 

Set in Times by 

Book Economy Services, Crawley, Sussex 

Made and printed in Great Britain 
by The Anchor Press Ltd 
Tiptree, Essex 



ISBN 09 930700 6 



Galactic Search 



I had spent a quiet morning fiddling with my new 
miniature therm- grenade. It had cost more than I could 
afford, but it was worth it. Though it could turn an 
ordinary room into a charred ruin, it was small enough to 
be set into a ring, like a jewel. And that's where I carried 
it - along with several other rings-which were only a few 
of the mini-weapons scattered about my person. 

It's not that I'm a violent man. I'm more of a careful 
man. In my line of work, I find that it's usually other 
people who get violent. So I Hke to be ready for 
anything, any time. 

But I wasn't expecting any trouble that morning, 
when 1 slipped the grenade-ring on my finger and went to 
keep my appointment. I was heading for the vast 
buildings that housed the government of the Federated 
Human Worlds. And there 1 was seeing a commander of 
the Federation PoUce (Earth Division). Nothing,. I 
thought to myself comfortingly, could happen to me 
there. 

How wrong can a man be? 

Commander Verre was a tall, stiff man with sharp 
grey eyes that matched the grey of his FedPol uniform. 
And those eyes widened a little when 1 entered his office. 

'Del Curb?' he said, as if doubting it. 'The interplanet- 
ary investigator?' 

I assured him that that was me. 

'The man who killed the spymaster of Aldebaran, and 
trapped the kidnappers of the Callitee princess?' 

I nodded, as modestly as I could. 



5 



He frowned. 1 thought you would be bigger. And less 
. . . overdressed.' 

Now some people might have felt annoyed, but I just 
smiled. I'm not big, but I'm not really small - in fact I'm 
about average and ordinary looking. Even my clothes 
are ordinary, for this city, though they might have 
looked bright next to a FedPol uniform. 

That day I was wearing a canary yellow, one-piece 
suit, trimmed in terra cotta and sky blue at the collar, 
shoulders and wrists. My belt and boots, made of the 
multi-coloured hide of a Frygian sand-dragon, were 
almost conservative. As for the rings on my fingers, the 
jewelled pendant round my neck and the jewelled 
headband that held back my hair, they were modest 
compared to the decorations of most city folk. 

And anyway, in my case, not one of them was merely 
decoration. 

So I smiled at Verre. 'If you're looking for an 
underdressed giant, you've got the wrong man.' 

'No, no,' he said, waving a long hand. 'If you are Del 
Curb, you are the man I want. The Federation Police 
need your help, Mr Curb, to find an extra-terrestrial.' 

'Fine,' I said brightly. Looking for people - or 
extra-terrestrials - is one of the things I do best. It 
seemed odd that the FedPol needed my help, but I was 
willing to listen. 

'The being in question,' Verre went on, 'is named 
Rimeq, Rimeq the Renegade. Remember?' 

Suddenly I was no longer wilhng to listen. And I 
turned extremely pale. Because I did remember-better 
than I wanted to., 

Rimeq the Renegade. A name to call up memories 
that are Uke the nightmares you put out of your mind 
when morning comes. Except that this was morning, and 
the nightmares were real. 

There are a lot of extra-terrestrial races in the galaxy. 
We call them 'exters'. Most of the time humans from the 



Federation get along with them, and to me exters mostly 
seem to be fairly nice folk. 

Rimeq the Renegade was not nice. 

He came originally from a distant planet, Kalgor. 
There he had joined a vicious terrorist gang and begun to 
prey upon his own world, which gave him his nickname, 
the Renegade. Later he moved on, to look for new prey 
on other exter worlds and in the Human Federation. 
Interplanetary criminal, terrorist, mass murderer - that 
was Rimeq. He was probably insane, and was certainly 
the most savage, bloodthirsty killer the galaxy had ever 
known, who had left a trail of slaughter and destruction 
across hundreds of planets. 

Rimeq was a humanoid exter - that is, he had the same 
number of arms and legs and heads and so on as humans 
have. But really he was a monster, and was said to be a 
mutant. He was big and powerful, with a scaly, mottled, 
purplish hide as thick as armour. He had claws like steel 
hooks, fangs hke daggers, and red eyes set deep in dark 
sockets that glowed Uke torches in haunted caverns. He 
looked like the demons that ancient Earth people used 
to believe in. And maybe he was, not just because of his 
bloodthirsty ways, but because of his other powers. For 
Rimeq had an eerie mental abihty, Uke dark magic. He 
could grasp and move physical objects with his mind. 

Sitting in Commander Verre' s office, I remembered 
all that. And I also remembered that I had met Rimeq, 
once, face to face. 

It was years ago. I had gathered a team of hand-picked 
combat veterans, and had set out in the rash belief that 
we could capture him. And we had done quite well. We 
tracked him and located him, we surrounded him and 
moved in for the capture. There were seventeen of us, 
and he was alone. 

But he simply whisked our weapons away with his 
spooky mind-power, and then went through us like a 
clawed, fanged, red-eyed whirlwind of horror. 



6 



7 



I was the only survivor of that foolhardy mission and 1 
lived simply because I was bleeding so badly it looked 
like I was dead. Rimeq got away, of course, and no one 
ever got that close to him again. 

Time had healed most of my scars, body and mind. 
And so had the fact that Rimeq had not been heard from 
for a while now, and some said he was dead. 

So I tried to stay calm as I sat looking at Coimnander 
Verre. 'I thought he wasn't around any more.' 

'I wish he wasn't,' Verre said stiffly, 'but he is. And we 
want you to go after him.' 

Then I turned even paler. 'Not a chance,' I croaked. 

Verre seemed not to have heard me. 'He has sent the 
Federation a message - quite insane. He demands that 
we give him an entire planet to rule. And that we stop all 
pursuit of him. Or else, he says, he will destroy Earth.' 

'Forget it,' I said, more loudly. 

Still he ignored me. 'The FedPol have some vague 
ideas about where he is now. But we cannot follow up 
those ideas, officially. We need unofficial help. Your 
help.' 

'No,' I moaned. 

'Rimeq says he has a nulUty bomb,' Verre went on, 
'and will use it on Earth.' 

At that an arctic wind seemed to blow down my spine. 
A nullity bomb was able to destroy every living thing on 
a planet's surface. It had existed till then only as a theory 
- because to make one, you would have to be the worst 
kind of murderous, criminal maniac. 

Like Rimeq the Renegade. 

'You've got the wrong man,' I said, hoarsely. 

The Commander scowled. 'Mr Curb, you faced 
Rimeq before, and lived. If you do not try to face him 
again, the Earth may die. Where is your public spirit, 
your pride?' 

'I traded them in on a survival kit,' I said sourly. 
'You may also,' Verre added, 'name your own fee.' 

8 



'Ten milhon,' 1 said. It was the first absurdly impossi- 
ble sum that came to mind. 

He looked pained but then, astonishingly, he nodded. 
'We will pay it. If you go after Rimeq.' 

The icy chill on my spine suddenly seemed warmer. 
Ten million . . . ! 

'How long would I have?' I asked warily. 

'Rimeq wants his answer,' he replied, 'two days from 
now.' 

'Two days?' I goggled. 'And a galaxy to search?' 

Verre shook his head. 'The FedPol are searching the 
galaxy but so far have found nothing. We need you 
merely to investigate two special worlds. One is the 
planet Xyry, where FedPol officers are not allowed.' 

1 nodded thoughtfully. Xyry was a 'free' planet, which 
meant that it was a haven for drifters, outcasts and 
crooks of every kind - especially in its central city, 
known as the Labyrinth. It was just Rimeq' s kind of 
place. 

'The other is the planet HalUpor,' Verre went on, 
'which has no intelligent life. A FedPol officer was 
assigned to that world, but we have lost contact with 
him.' 

I nodded again. A wild planet would also make sense, 
as a base for Rimeq. I tried not to think about what 
might have happened to the FedPol officer. 

'Mr Curb,' Verre said firmly, 'you are said to be the 
best in your field. Rimeq the Renegade must be stopped, 
and you may be the man to stop him. I do not think it is 
too much to ask, not for the fee you have been offered, 
and not when the survival of Earth is at stake. I expect 
you to begin at once.' 

Soon afterwards, a FedPol space-cruiser dehvered me to 
my spaceship. I leave my ship in a parking orbit around 
Earth, not in a space-port. My ship is hke home to me. 



9 



and, being a careful man, I don't like people knowing 
exactly where it is. 

There 1 sat, quivering. Was 1 really going to go after a 
monstrous extra-terrestrial who was the most feared 
killer in the galaxy? I'd be out of my mind. And yet, 
every time I reached for the communicator to call Verre 
and tell him I'd remembered urgent business elsewhere, 
into my mind's eye came the image of the numeral '10', 
followed by a string of zeros. . . . 

So in the end I set my ship's controls, and moved away 
into deep space. I told myself soothingly that Rimeq 
might not be on either of the two planets. Or that I might 
be able to spot him and deal with him from a nice safe 
distance, without risk. And I also reminded myself that 
Commander Verre could make hfe very unpleasant for 
me if I didn't at least try. 

At last, trying to keep my hands from shaking, I set 
the controls that would send the ship into faster-than- 
Ught (FTL) drive. 

The FTL drive can take a ship halfway across the 
galaxy in a matter of minutes. But that was enough time 
for me to decide where to start-the 'free' world of Xyry, 
or the wild planet HaUipor. 



// you were Del Curb, where would you start? On Xyry? 
Turn to page 11. 



Or on Hallipor? Turn to page 16. 



10 



Terror In the Sky 



Before I had finished putting my ship into FTL drive, I 
had made up my mind to head for Xyry. A criminal like 
Rimeq would feel most at home on a nearly lawless 
world. And Xyry's main city, the Labyrinth, specialized 
in hiding dangerous folk like him. 

But then I was a speciahst, too, at finding dangerous 
folk. I'd been in the Labyrinth many times. So I set my 
course and in a short while was putting my ship into a 
parking orbit, and taking one of my shuttle-pods down 
to the Xyry space-port. From there I plunged into the 
Labyrinth. 

'Plunge' was the right word. The Labyrinth is a huge, 
tangled, mazy sprawl that looks like it was designed by 
architects who were either absentminded or crazy, 
because they ignored the need for space between 
buildings. There is nothing that deserves to be called a 
street or an avenue. There are narrow alleys and 
passages, corridors and lanes, stairways and ramps, 
tunnels and arcades. All of them twisting, winding, 
interconnecting and overlapping. 

It was a place to get lost in, totally and sometimes 
permanently, as thousands of people did every year. 
Which is what made it so popular with the criminal 
classes, when they didn't want to be found. 

But I wasn't interested then in those mazes. I spent a 
while looking for a sky-cab, and let it take me to visit my 
old friend Fif in his Bar in the Sky. 

Fif is a nickname, because no one can pronounce his 
real name. He's an exter, who looks hke a large ball of 



11 



orange fluff, from which tentacles stick out now and 
then, acting as eyes, hands and so on. His bar is a large 
glassy sphere, floating on magno-hover, about two 
kilometres above the Labyrinth. It's a good place to 
learn things, for Fif is one of the most devoted gossips in 
the galaxy. 

It was still early evening, and the sky-bar was nearly 
empty. Just a group of tourists in one corner and at the 
bar, where Fif was serving, only a dwarfish humanoid 
exter with a sour expression. Maybe he looked that way 
because his pale skin was covered in bristly, sharp- 
pointed spines, like a thorn tree, which couldn't have 
won him many friends. 

Fif seemed happy enough to see me, until I mentioned 
the name of Rimeq the Renegade. Then a great many 
tentacles popped out of his orange fluff and waved wildly 
around. 

'You trying to get me killed. Curb?' he squeaked. 

'Whatever you tell me,' I promised him, 'no one will 
ever know it came from you.' 

Some of the tentacles calmed down, and one of them 
beckoned me to the far end of the bar, well away from 
the dwarfish spiny exter. That seemed to offend him, 
because he gave us a dark look and stalked out. He 
probably had a flyer parked outside the sky-bar, but I 
didn't pay attention. By then Fif was gossiping away in 
full flow. 

1 listened patiently, but for a while I heard nothing but 
his usual flood of rumours, hints, guesses and wild ideas. 
But then there was an item that interested me. Fif 
mentioned a human, named Grees, who ran a gambling 
den in the heart of the Labyrinth. And Fif knew, for 
certain, that Grees had been acting as an agent for 
someone big and had been bringing a lot of complex 
technology into the city. 

The kind of stuff, perhaps, that you'd need to build a 
nullity bomb. 



12 



I wanted to know more about Grees and, when I could 
get a word in edgeways, Fif seemed willing enough to tell 
me. At first. 

But then he looked past me, and gasped. Every one of 
his tentacles snapped back into the orange fluff like 
rubber bands. And the fluff itself started fluttering 
wildly, as if blown about by a high wind. 

I whirled - and looked into the eyes of death. 

Everyone else had left the bar. TTiere were only Fif 
and me - and a newcomer, in the doorway. He was tall, 
and looked bulky, but his body was hidden in a heavy 
cloak, and its hood kept his head and face in shadow. 
Mostly in shadow. 

But within that darkness 1 could see the twin gleams of 
crimson. They were hke small, fierce torches in a 
haunted cave. . . . 

I fought the fear that nearly paralysed me, expecting 
the savage attack at any instant. But it did not come. 
Instead, the cloaked stranger set a small package down, 
and turned away, out of the bar to where he had a vehicle 
waiting. 

I could hardly beUeve it. But then I looked more 
closely at the package. A small metal box, with a dial or 
two showing. . . . 

A part of my mind had the idea that the hooded figure 
hadn't attacked because he hked to destroy as well as 
kill. And that metal box would do both jobs very well. In 
only a few seconds. 

Then 1 was no longer dumb and frozen. 1 was tucking 
Fif under one arm, ignoring his shrill squeak, and diving 
for the door. 

There were no vehicles, but I hadn't expected any. I 
didn't pause. As Fifs squeaking rose to a soprano 
shriek, I simply leaped off the edge of the sky-bar into 
the two kilometres of night air that lay between the bar 
and the rooftops of the city. 

We fell fast enough in the first seconds to escape the 



13 



blast, when the metal box exploded. But I hardly saw the 
eraption of flame that turned the bar into a million 
melting shards of glass and metal. With a finger pressed 
firmly on a control switch in my belt, I was scanning the 
sky, wondering if.my spaceship would be quicker than 
our fall. 

I've used that method of boarding my ship many 
times, though it's illegal on most worlds. The switch in 
my belt calls my ship, which blasts down into atmos- 
phere, homes in on me and throws down a tractor beam, 
to scoop me up. 

My ship is guided by a computer brain that is about 
forty million times cleverer than me, but very obedient. 
Yet that wouldn't help me, I knew, for if the ship was in a 
distant part of its parking orbit, it would never reach us 
in time. 

Luckily it wasn't. We were still about a himdred 
metres from the groimd when the beam caught us. It was 
like diving into glue, as the beam fought the speed of our 
fall, slowed it, and finally stopped it. 

Then I guided it with my belt controls to move the 
tractor beam and deposit us on a nearby roof. And 
finally I sent the ship back up into its patient parking 
orbit. 

Fif and I did very little except breathe hard, for several 
moments afterwards. Then tentacles began waving 
again. 

'My bar's wrecked!' he squeaked. 'And Rimeq'U kill 
me now, for sure! Look what you've done to me!' 

'He thinks he has killed you,' I pointed out. 'And what 
I just did to you was save your Ufe.' 

That silenced him for a moment. 

'You might take a hohday,' I added. 'On the other 
side of the galaxy. Until something is done about 
Rimeq.' 

Something like a snort came from the orange fluff. 
'Who can do anything about him?' 



14 



'We'll have to see,' I said. 'But if anyone does, I'll let 
you know.' 

If I'm still around, I thought. But I didn't say it, 
because I'd gone looking for a way down from the roof 
And on the way I thought about what to do next, aside 
from joining Fif on holiday, which I wanted to do, but 

couldn't. 

I could go and see the human that Fif had mentioned - 
Grees, the gambling-den owner. 

Or I could scour the Labyrinth for someone else. A 
dwarfish, spine-covered exter, who had almost certainly 
warned Rimeq that there was an Earthman in Fif's bar 
asking questions. And so the hooded, red-eyed figure 
had paid his murderous visit. . . . 



Where would you go? To see Grees, in his gambling den? 
Turn to page 19. 



Or would you search for the spine-covered exter? Turn to 
page 29. 



Swamp Monsters 



Before 'my ship came out of FTL drive, I had decided in 
favour of Hallipor. A planet without intelligent life 
would be easier to check, since if Rimeq or anyone was 
there, I'd find signs of technology. And my ship's sensors 
would be able to spot it from a safe distance. 

Which they did. When I got into orbit around 
Hallipor, the sensors picked up signs of technology in 
two separate places, only a few kilometres apart. That 
would make it easier, I told myself, as I worked up the 
nerve to go down there. 

I left my ship in orbit and took one of my one -person 
shuttle-pods down to the planet, landing on a good-sized 
stretch of solid ground. And that was lucky, since nearly 
all of the rest of the planet seemed to be mucky, soggy 
and treacherous swamp. 

At least it was an oxygen planet, so I didn't need a 
spacesuit. But when 1 stepped out of the pod, 1 wished 1 
was wearing one. Hallipor' s idea of a swamp was a lot of 
filthy water and ooze of an evil dark-brown colour, and a 
lot of tangled plant life coloured a livid red. And it all 
stank with a stomach-twisting sick-sweetness, as if the 
whole planet was a giant, rotting fruit. 

Breathing mostly through my mouth, I reached up 
and twisted one of the jewels in the front of my 
headband. That jewel was a short-range sensor, and the 
slight tingle I felt on my forehead pointed me in the 
direction of the nearest bit of the technology. I started 
walking, staying on firm ground where possible, and 
found it quite easily. 



16 



That was because there was still a thin column of 
smoke drifting up from it. From the smashed and 
crumpled wreckage of a FedPol cruiser. So much for 
Commander Verre's officer, I thought sourly. 

But a quick search showed no sign of a dead cop, so 1 
began to feel more hopeful. And I thought that maybe 
the other spot where my sensors had spotted technology 
might give me a clue to where the FedPol cop had gone. 
That other spot was a few kilometres away, in the depths 
of the swamp. But I had no choice. I gritted my teeth, 
and started walking. 

It was not a pleasant journey. HaUipor may not have 
had intelUgent life, but it had plenty of other life forms - 
all of them ugly, and hungry. The least nasty were the 
things like leeches, as big as my fist. Then there was a 
thing that seemed to be no more than a large, bulbous 
stomach, with a mouth attached, a mouth full of teeth, 
which took a fancy to my leg. And a gigantic worm with 
seven heads, and seven mouths full of teeth, that rose 
high out of the water and took a fancy to all of me. 

But I have two Uttle positron guns in my wristbands, 
and I was never in serious danger. And at least all the 
tangled plant life gave me plenty of cover, as I trudged 
through the stink and the murk. Until I found out what 
lived in the trees. 

I found out when a broad, flat, squelchy thing - like a 
slug, three metres across - flopped out of a pool and 
slithered across a patch of mud towards another pool. 
And something else, which had looked like a large ugly 
fungus growing on the trees, simply dropped on to it. 

The fungus-thing wasn't as broad or as thick as the 
giant slug. But it was big enough to wrap itself around 
me, like a slimy blanket. And I'd glimpsed its underside, 
and had seen a wide gaping slash of mouth with more 
than a hundred httle barbed hooks all along its edges. 
When the fungus-thing dropped on the slug, the slug 
threshed frantically - but those hooks had sunk in, and 



17 



were there to stay. In seconds the slug had gone still, and 
I heard a ghastly, slobbery, sucking sound. 

Shuddering, I moved away, now watching the trees 
even more carefully than I watched the mucky water. If 
ever there was a place where Rimeq the Renegade ought 
to feel at home, I thought, it was in this swamp with aU 
these murderous monsters. 

It was not a cheering thought, but I kept on until I 
came to a hillock of solid ground, where nothing lurked 
that wanted to take bites out of me. There I paused for a 
rest. And of course I turned my head now and then as I 
had been doing from the start. Though the technology 
lay ahead of me, 1 was careful also to keep an eye - or a 
sensor - on what might be behind me. 

Each previous sweep, the sensor's tingle told me that 
there was nothing back there but animal life. But this 
time the tingle changed. It told me that a different kind 
of Ufe form was moving through the swamp on exactly 
the route I had taken. 

An i ntel I i gent life form. 

The swamp was sweaty-hot, but 1 was suddenly cold. 1 
told myself that the unknown being behind me could be 
anybody. Maybe the FedPol cop from the crashed ship. 
Maybe a tourist, who liked going for walks in 
swamps. . . . But I didn't convince myself. 

Still, whoever it was, the being was some distance 
away. Perhaps it wasn't even aware of me, but was 
simply going the same way, towards the technology. 
Should 1 keep going, and get there first? Or should I hide 
where I was, and see who was trailing me? 

Would you go on and find the technology? Turn to page 
24. 

Or would you hide^ and inspect the pursuer? Turn to page 
32. 



18 



Rescue by Robot 



It seemed to me that a well-known gambhng den would 
be easier to find, in the Labyrinth, than one small, spiny 
exter. So I set off in search of Grees. And after about an 
hour of twisting and turning through the narrow, 
crowded, garishly-lit passages, I pushed open a heavy 
door and joined the hordes of gamblers, human and 
exter, who were having a wonderful time losing their 
money. 

The gambling den was a huge area, swirling with noise 
and colour and strange smells. For a while I wandered 
slowly through it, acting like a tourist, placing a few 
small bets - one on a fight between two toad-Uke 
Myterean tree-killers, another on a race among tiny, 
hundred-legged crustaceans from Korbel III. 

And all the time I was being watched. A vast, sturdy 
bar ran the full length of the room, where drinks were 
dispensed by the silent metal shapes of servo-robots. But 
also behind that bar was a short, enormously fat human, 
who seemed to be in charge. He had to be the owner, 
Grees, and it was his small piggy eyes that had been 
tracking me, ever since I'd entered. 

That was odd. Only a very watchful person would 
have singled me out in a crowd like that. But I just kept 
drifting, wearing the silly smile of a tourist having a great 
night out, and waited. I didn't think I'd have to wait long 
for Grees to make some kind of move, and I was right. 

My wandering came to an end when my way was 
barred by a tall exter covered in brown fur, with long 
hands that held the ugly shapes of photon guns. 



19 



'Boss wants a talk,' the exter said, jerking his narrow 
head towards the back of the room. 

He ushered me along with sharp jabs from his 
gun-barrels, through a door behind the bar and up a 
spiral ramp to the next floor. There, in a richly furnished 
but none too clean office, Grees sat behind a heavy 
table, with a large human thug on either side of him. 

'What do you want in my place?' Grees demanded. 
His voice was high-pitched, an odd sound coming from 
that mass of blubber. 

I shrugged. 'Just passing the tune, like everyone else.' 

His laugh was shrill, with no humour in it. 'All the bars 
in all the galaxy, and you come into mine,' he sneered. 
'You think I don't know the smell of cop?' 

'I'm no cop,' I said easily. 'And I'm surprised you 
noticed my smell, in this place.' 

A fat lip curled. 'You don't say. Just a tourist, right? 
Except this tourist goes around asking questions.' He 
leaned forward fatly. 'How did you get out of the 
sky-bar, cop?' 

My heart sank into my boots. The word had already 
gone out, to all of Rimeq's contacts, about what had 
happened in Fif s bar - probably with a description of 
me. So Grees had recognized me the instant I'd come 
through his door. 

'What sky-bar?' I asked innocently, but I knew it 
wouldn't work. 

Grees snorted, and glanced at the furry exter whose 
guns were still fixed on me. 'Search him,' he ordered. 
'Then make him talk - any way you need to.' 

'Do we bring him upstairs after?' asked one of the 
human thugs. 

Grees turned on him, glowering. 'How many times do 
I tell you, upstairs is off hmits! Nobody but me goes up 
there, till I say different!' 

All three of his men nodded quickly, then turned to 
me. By then the two human thugs had drawn guns, too. 



20 



and I was starting to sweat. 

But before any of us could move, an odd thing 
happened, an impossible thing. Another door to the 
office shd quietly open, and in it stood one of the 
servo-robots from the bar downstairs. Grees and his 
men had their backs to it, and didn't see it. But I had a 
hard time keeping my eyes from popping with surprise 
when the robot did the impossible thing. 

It jerked one hand, and rolled a small plastic sphere 
into the middle of the room. 

I recognized the object, just in time to take a huge 
breath and hold it. But Grees and his thugs were 
unaware of the sphere until it had burst, with a muffled 
pop, and filled the room with a greenish vapour. 

All four of my captors crumpled quietly to the floor. 
And I just stood there, turning red from holding my 
breath, gaping at the robot that had, impossibly, attack- 
ed four Uving beings. 

Then the robot grabbed my arm, as if impatiently, and 
hustled me out of the room. Away from the gas I could 
breathe again, but I was still gaping as it led me down 
another ramp, through some corridors, and into an 
unoccupied area at the back of the building. 

And there it did another impossible thing. It spoke to 
me in a voice that was filled with very human emotion, 
mostly anger. 

'You're a fool, Del Curb,' it said. 'Were you trying to 
get yourself killed?' 

My jaw fell further open. And it dropped nearly to my 
knees when I saw almost invisible seams open in the 
robot's metal body. And from within that body, as if it 
was a suit of armour, stepped a small, shm and 
angry-eyed young woman. 

She was dark-haired, and nicely shaped within a tight 
coverall. And I could only stare as she adjusted the belt 
around her waist that held a long-range communicator 
and other items. 



21 



'Stop gaping,' she snapped at me. 'I'm Mala Yorder, 
undercover FedPol, and you've just ruined a month of 
my work, trying to get close to this gang. Now let's 
move, before they wake up.' 

I shook my head, to wake myself up. 'I thought the 
FedPol weren't allowed on this planet?' 

'Not officially,' she snapped. 'But we've always had 
agents here, undercover.' 

'Then why did Commander Verre send me here?' I 
asked. 

'That's what I'd like to know,' Mala said curtly. '1 was 
told the great Del Curb was coming, because no one 
knew the Labyrinth so well. But I don't know what use 
you'll be, after tonight.' 

1 was stung. '1 don't have a lot of time to do things the 
slow and sneaky way. Anyway, how close have you got 
to finding Rimeq, after a month?' 

'Close enough,' she said, with a glare. 'I know that 
Grees gets regular visits from some mysterious character, 
in his private apartment upstairs. And 1 know he has been 
bringing in loads of special equipment, which has gone to 
a warehouse at the space-port.' She reddened a little. 'But 
I haven't been able to look at either place, yet.' 

'That's the trouble with being too careful,' I said 
smugly. 'I've been on Xyry only a few hours, and I've 
already had a run-in with Rimeq.' 

Her eyes widened. 'You met Rimeq - and you're still 
aUve?' 

I nodded. 'That's twice now.' Maybe third time 
unlucky, I thought, but didn't say it. 'So we know he's 
around. Why don't we work together? One of us could 
look at the warehouse, and the other could check out the 
apartment upstairs.' 

She shook her head firmly. 'This is still my assign- 
ment, and you're just a civilian meddler. We'll stick 
together - especially if you're going to go on blundering 
into danger.' 



22 



'Suit yourself,' I said, in an injured tone. 'But where 
do we go first?' 



If you would first go to look at Grees' upstairs apartment, 
tum to page 43. 

If you would go to the warehouse, turn to page 77. 



Bound to the Bomb 



It was an attack of nerves that drove me on. I wasn't sure 
I'd be able to sit still, in that grisly swamp, waiting for the 
mysterious pursuer to creep up on me. 

So I squelched onwards, still warily watching the trees 
for signs of fungus-things, until at last I came to the edge 
of a small clearing, another patch of firm ground. It held 
a dense growth of low, scarlet plants like ferns and, in 
the midst of them, the second piece of technology that 
my sensor had spotted. 

I crouched in the brush at the edge of the clearing and 
studied it. It was a building of some sort, about forty 
metres high and nearly twice as broad. It looked more 
like a storage tank than anything else - or a giant barrel. 
And its shiny metal surface was smooth and blank, with ; 
no openings of any sort that I could see. With a sinking : 
feehng, I realized that I would have to go closer. 

My headband sensor told me that the unknown 
pursuer was still far enough away to give me time. So I 
went flat among the scarlet ferns, and slid forward to the 
building. And my heartbeat was the loudest thing in the 
swamp. 

But no one shot at me, no one shouted, no one even 
stepped out and said hello. So I leaned against the 
smooth side of the building for a moment, because I | 
found I'd forgotten to breathe while I crossed the { 
clearing. | 

And as I leaned against the metal, my elbow touched 
an almost invisible panel, and a portion of the shiny wall f 
slid smoothly aside, providing a wide, high door { 

24 : 



to the inside. 

I wasn't sure I wanted a door. But I was like a mouse 
who knows about traps but can't resist cheese. And I 
stepped into the building. 

The door didn't close behind me, so again I could let 
myself breathe. And there was no one inside. Just an 
enormous jumble of equipment - computer systems, 
data banks, consoles, cabinets, cases and much more. It 
was a laboratory of some sort, which seemed to be 
centred on one object: a long metal cylinder, vaguely the 
shape of a missile, as sleek and deadly as a basking 
shark. 

The nullity bomb. It had to be. I was within touching 
distance of the galaxy's most frightful weapon, while the 
galaxy's most deadly killer was probably getting near to 
within touching distance of me. 

My mind had nearly gone blank. I thought of trying to 
disarm the bomb, but I wasn't sure I'd know how. I 
thought of hiding among the equipment, trying for a 
clear shot at Rimeq from ambush, but I didn't like the 
idea of being trapped in that building. I thought. . . . 

And then my time for thinking ran out. 

I was paralysed. I could breathe and move my eyes 
and mouth, but nothing else. As if a giant but invisible 
hand had closed tightly round me. And then I was Ufted 
into the air, turning slowly, danghng as helplessly as a 
puppet on unseen strings. 

There he stood, in the doorway. Huge, powerful, 
clothed only in his own scaly, armoured hide. Yellow 
fangs gleaming, claws unsheathing like a cat's, red 
flames of eyes flaring. 

Rimeq the Renegade. Alone, and carrying no 
weapon, but needing none. He was gripping me with the 
awful strength of his mind-power, as a man might hold a 
butterfly in a net. 

'I commend your courage, Earthman.' Rimeq's voice 
was harsh, with an edge of manic glee. 'Not many would 

25 



have entered my lair, even if they had been clever 
enough to find it.' He stepped closer, and the red eyes 
flickered. 'But I know you. You are Curb, the investiga- 
tor, whom 1 thought 1 had killed, years ago. No matter, 1 
shall put that right, today.' 

There wasn't much to say to that, so I kept silent. 

'How shall I kill you, Earthman?' the gloating voice 
went on. 'Simply increase the pressure?' A crushing pain 
around my ribs gave me a sample of what he meant. 'Or 
shall I release you, and tear you with my bare hands?' 

'Choose that one,' I said through gritted teeth. My 
hands were itching for the feel of my positron guns. 

He gave a barking laugh. 'You are of course armed. 
But you would have to be very quick. Curb, or I would 
reach you first, and then no weapon would help you.' He 
paused for a moment, his red eyes flaming like torches in 
a wind. 'But no. I have had an amusing idea.' 

I felt myself lifted higher, and then Rimeq's mind- 
power sent me drifting down towards the metal cyUnder 
of the nullity bomb. From somewhere two lengths of 
stout metal cable sailed snakily towards me. I felt my 
arms jerked high above my head, felt the cables twist 
around my wrists and ankles, knotting themselves into 
rigid bonds. 

Then I was lowered, full-length, on to the smooth 
metal of the bomb. Another length of cable wrapped 
itself around both me and that deadly cylinder, binding 
us immovably together. 

At that moment 1 knew 1 could move again, for Rimeq 
had withdrawn his mind-power. But the cables held 
firmly against my struggles. 

'Now you will accompany the bomb on its last 
journey, to Earth,' Rimeq said, his 'eyes glowing Uke 
windows on to an inferno. 'For 1 intend to destroy Earth 
whether they accept my demands or not. Are you afraid, 
Earthman?' 

'Terrified.' There was some truth in that, but I said it 



26 



as flatly as I could. 'And how are you getting the bomb 
there? Is your mind-power that strong?' 

'My mind can reach great distances into space,' Rimeq 
said boastfully. 'But no, you will go in a ship. You are in 
that ship at the moment. And it will lift off . . . now.' 

That shook me. The whole building was a spaceship? 
But that explained the barrel-like shape, and the invisi- 
ble seal of the door. . . . 

.Rimeq had moved away towards the door, but then he 
turned, with that barking laugh. 'I should tell you, 
Earthman, that the bomb's mechanism is tuned to the 
Earth's gravitational field. Only being near Earth will 
detonate it - nothing else.' 

And he laughed again, and strode out. Almost as soon 
as the door slid shut behind him, I felt the building 
around me begin to tremble. Then I was being pressed 
down against the length of the bomb, as the building that 
was a spaceship began its hft-off. 

I didn't know how it was powered, or how long it 
would take to get to Earth. But I wasn't waiting around 
to find out. It was time to get moving. 

With my arms stretched above me, and wrists tightly 
bound, I couldn't reach any of the weapons in my 
clothing or jewellery. But then a man can't always count 
on being fully dressed when somebody might try to hurt 
him. So I have other weapons, in other places. 

And one of them was the tiny vibroknife, disguised as 
the nail on my left index finger. I don't hke using it much, 
since it leaves my finger sore for a week. But the blade 
vibrates about a thousand times a second,, and cuts most 
things that I know of. 

Including metal cable. The httle blade shd out of my 
fingernail, humming like a faraway gnat. It took some 
stretching and twisting of my wrist, but at last I got the 
blade where 1 wanted it, without slicing through any bits 
of me. The cable binding my arms fell away, shortly 
followed by the others that bound me. 



27 



But then I was merely free inside a spaceship, with a 
nullity bomb, on its way to destroy Earth. 

1 made a high-speed search of the ship's interior. But 
there were no openings except the one door. And the 
ship's controls and drive were sealed off, and I couldn't 
tell just where they were - nor was I about to start 
blasting experimental holes in the hull to find them. 

But that gave me an idea. In fact, it gave me two ideas 
- both wildly desperate and risky, full of things that 
could go wrong. One might save Earth, if it worked, but 
would probably leave Rimeq free. The other idea was 
even crazier, but if it worked it would save Earth and 
finish Rimeq. 



How would you decide? Simply to save Earth? Turn to 
page 34. 



Or would you try to save Earth and put an end to Rimeq? 
Turn to page 51. 



Killer's Hide-out 



My decision to go looking for the spiny dwarf seemed 
just common sense to me. Grees' gambling den would 
probably be M of aooks and thugs, while the dwarf was 
only one thug, and smaller than me. So I plunged again 
into the tangled ways of the Labyrinth and began the 
search. 

Looking for one person, or exter, in that place is hke 
the old saying about a needle in a haystack - which 
seemed suitable, when I remembered the dwarf's spiny 
covering. But needles can be found more easily when 
you can ask questions of the hay. And while my fluffy 
orange friend, Fif, was probably not speaking to me, 
there were other folk in the Labyrinth who were. After 
an hour or two of wandering and careful conversation, I 
was directed to a seedy building that claimed to be a 
hotel. 

I got into the place without trouble, and made my way 
to an upper floor to find the room I was seeking. Muffled 
noises inside the room told me someone was at home, 
but it was no time for good manners. I picked the lock 
silently, slid a scrambler disc from a seam in my suit - 
then opened the door, tossed the disc in, and slammed 
the door shut. 

Any being with a brain and a nervous system has tiny 
but vital electrical connections in its nerves. A scrambler 
disc, as you might guess, saambles them. I could feel a 
tingUng from it even through the door. When I opened 
the door, the occupant of the room was lying on the 
floor, twitching now and then. 



29 



It was the spiny dwarf, I was glad to see. And as he 
started to come round, I noticed that he had four eyes, 
which were all staring wildly at me. Because I had drawn 
a heat-knife from my boot, and the bright orange glow of 
its blade was only a few centimetres from the dwarf's 
face. 

'I want you to tell me,' I said in a menacing tone, 
'where to find Rimeq.' 

The dwarf bhnked all four eyes several times. 'Don't 
know no Rimeq,' he mumbled. 

I lowered the knife, to touch one of the thorny spikes 
jutting from his chin. The tip of it smouldered and 
withered like a burnt match. '1 haven't got a lot of time,' 
I snarled. 'I could just cut you up, and go and ask 
someone else.' 

I wouldn't have, of course, but he didn't know that. 
His four eyes nearly crossed as they stared at the searing 
blade. 'He'd kill me if I told you!' 

'He might,' I agreed. 'But I definitely will, if you 
don't. So, do you want to take a chance, or go for a sure 
thing?' 

Again 1 lowered the blade a few millimetres, and it did 
the trick. 'An old mine!' the dwarf babbled. 'North-west 
- ten kilometres! He goes there a lot!' 

'Thanks,' I said. And I was on my way before he 
realized I'd moved. And certainly before he noticed the 
gas pellet that I'd left behind, which would keep him 
asleep and unable to talk to anyone for a day or two. 

I was soon in another sky-cab, teUing it to drop me 
nine kilometres north-west of the city. I intended to walk 
the rest of the way, preferring to arrive silently. It wasn't 
a pleasant walk, because I didn't risk making too much 
use of the hght-beam from one of my headband jewels. 
So I picked up a few bruises from stumbling around in 
darkness, in a landscape that seemed to be mostly 
sharp-edged rock. 

But at last I found the mine. Whatever had been 



30 



mined there had clearly all been dug up some time 
before, since there was nothing much left but a few 
rusty, crumbling, metal buildings. They stood near to 
the gaping blackness of a timnel-mouth, carved into the 
side of a rocky chff. The tunnel seemed to lead into the 
dark heart of the cliff, and did not look like a place where 
I wanted to go at all. 

Even so, I started forward, slowly. And then I went 
backwards, much more quickly. I had heard the low 
rumble of a motor, and the sound of muffled voices. 

Into sight, dimly lit by its own small sidelights, came a 
flat, open ground-car, with several shadowy figures 
riding on it. But only one held my attention. A tall, 
wide-shouldered humanoid figure wearing a long, heavy 
cloak. 

The cloaked figure stepped down, and a sharp voice 
came from it that carried clearly to me. 'Get back to the 
ship now, and stay watchful. I will be ready by first light' 
The others obediently turned the ground-car around, 
while the cloaked figure stalked towards the tunnel 
mouth. And I sat among the rocks, wishing the spiny 
dwarf hadn't been so easy to frighten. 

It had to be Rimeq the Renegade himself, still in his 
cloak, who had entered the tunnel. And he had a ship, 
and some henchmen to guard it. 

1 wanted nothing to do with any of them. But I knew I 
had to move, one way or another. 



Would you go into the tunnel? Turn to page 72. 



Or would you investigate the ship? Turn to page 83. 



31 



Law and Order 



I slid away from the hillock, looking for a dense thicket 
of undergrowth - preferably without any of the hook- 
mouthed fungus-things. The technology, I'd decided, 
could wait. I'd come to HalUpor to look for a Uving 
being, not a machine. And whoever was coming along 
on my trail, it was certainly a hving being. 

So I skulked, and hid. The thicket that I found was 
gloomy and dank and foul, smearing me with reeking 
mud and ooze, and containing some long wriggling 
things with stingers who thought I was a walking snack 
bar. But some swift kicks dealt with them, while I lurked 
- almost angrily wishing that it would turn out to be 
Rimeq who was following me, so 1 could merrily blow his 
head off for forcing me to be in that swamp. 

But it wasn't Rimeq. 

It was a taU, broad-shouldered young man in a grey 
uniform, the uniform of the Federation Police. He was 
plodding with steady determination through the muck, 
with his jaw set firmly and his eyes shining with zeal. 

Just what I need, I thought sourly. He had to be the 
FedPol cop from the crashed ship, apparently unhurt. 
And he looked like one of those young, strong, keen, 
confident cops who were earnestly sure that the forces of 
law and order would triumph as long as their eyes were 
clear and their hearts were pure. 

That attitude can be fine when you're sorting out some 
kids racing spaceships too close to a planet. But it's not 
what's needed when you're within reach of a crazed 
monster who is capable of kilhng an entire world. 



32 



I stayed in hiding, watching the young cop stride 
manfully past. Clearly he had no idea that anyone else 
was around. He had probably also detected that technol- 
ogy, and he was marching out to have a look at it, with all 
the caution and tactical sense of a charging bull. 

For one thing, he wasn't paying attention to the 
swamp around him. Twice, as I watched him, he passed 
directly under one of the deadly fungus-things. Each 
time the thing shifted and unfolded itself a Uttle, but 
stayed on its branch. There must be a guardian angel 
who takes care of fools and innocents - and this cop 
looked like he needed a brigade of them. 

And also, he never thought to check behind him, as I 
had. So I did it for him. And the new tingle from my 
sensor nearly made me jump out of my skin. 
There was someone else on my back trail. 
Another intelhgent life form, coming into sensor 
range on exactly the same path that both I and the young 
cop had taken. 

This swamp is getting a traffic problem, I thought 
wryly. But the joke didn't make me feel any better. The 
cop was now nearly out of sight, still marching in a 
straight line towards the place where the technology 
was. The other, unknown, being on the trail was also still 
out of sight, and didn't seem to be hurrying. And 1 was in 
my thicket, wishing that I was two people. 

I felt that I should go after the cop, to keep him from 
blundering into trouble when he found that mysterious 
technology. But I also wanted to keep myself out of 
trouble, by staying, hidden till I'd had a look at the 
unknown newcomer. 

What would you do? Follow the FedPol officer? Turn to 
page 38. 

Or would you wait in hiding for the second pursuer? Turn 
to page 46. 



33 



Into Nothingness 



I decided to play safe, and go for the slightly less crazy 
plan. It gave Earth a little more of a chance, even if 
Rimeq got away - this time. 

So I lifted my jewelled pendant to my mouth. It's a 
special communicator, and among other things I can use 
it to programme my spaceship's automatic systems, by 
voice. Which 1 did, mih a series of instructions that must 
have seemed Uke child's play to my clever ship com- 
puter. 

Clever, and also quick. In only a few minutes 1 felt the 
huge barrel-ship jolt and shudder. But I'd braced 
myself, because I'd ordered my own ship to come and 
grab the barrel-ship with a powerful tractor beam. 

Then everything around me was jolted again, by a 
heavier impact. As instructed, my ship had come closer - 
still keeping itself attached to this ship with the tractor 
beam, but now nudging its own hull tightly up against the 
hull of the barrel-ship. 

Here comes the tricky part, 1 thought. 1 stepped back, 
well out of the way, and watched a spot of white-gold 
brilliance form on the inner wall of the barrel-ship. In 
seconds the spot grew and expanded, becoming a small 
hole, and then larger and larger. . . . 

If it had just been a hole in the barrel-ship's hull, I 
would have died at once in the vacuum of space. But 
where that hole appeared was where my own ship was 
janmied against the barrel-ship, hull to hull. And from 
inside my ship, computer-guided, a positronic cutting 
beam was boring a hole through both hulls, at the same 



34 



time. 

And it was seahng the edges, with the molten metal, to 
protect the interiors of both ships against the vacuum. 

The hole grew into a neatly carved circle, a doorway 
between the two ships, which were now hterally welded 
together. I dived through that doorway, into my own 
ship, and scrambled to get myself into one of my 
one -person shuttle-pods. There was no time to waste, 
because 1 had programmed my ship for a further action. 

The shuttle-pod spurted out of the ship, and away - 
just in time. As I watched through the view-port, the two 
linked ships seemed to blur and shimmer. Then both of 
them winked out of sight, as if they had never existed. 

1 had programmed my ship to go into FTL drive, once 
I was out. And when a ship does that, it goes into 
nothingness. It goes out of the r&universe, into another 
space and time, where it can take its short-cuts across the 
unimaginable distances among the stars. 

So my ship had gone FTL, taking the barrel-ship, and 
the nulhty bomb, along with it. 

And I had not programmed its exit from FTL. 

The two linked ships would drift in that nothingness 
forever, never able to re-enter the real universe. The 
nullity bomb would never reach Earth. 

I was sorry to see my ship go. But I knew I could 
replace it, out of that enormous fee that the Federation 
had promised me. . . . 

And then I felt really stupid. 

I had been paid to go after Rimeq, who was still on 
Hallipor. Of course, saving Earth should count for 
something. But only if the Federation people beheved 
my story. And my only proof was drifting in the FTL 
nothingness. 

Part of my mind was teUing me that even ten million 
wasn't worth it, but I still aimed the shuttle-pod back 
down to the swampy surface of Hallipor. 

The pod's sensors and my own headband did their job, 



35 



and soon I was once again lurking in the midst of muck 
and stink. I had tracked Rimeq, and got ahead of him, 
and was waiting, trying to keep the cold sweat out of my 
eyes. 

And then he appeared, striding through the mud and 
ooze as if he owned it, which in a way he did. All the 
swamp's fanged horrors were staying out of his way, 
knowing a worse horror when they saw one. And Rimeq 
was grinning with red-eyed glee, as any insane killer 
would, who thought that he was going to wipe out an 
entire world. 

So I stepped out of a thicket of tall ferns, and wiped 
the grin off his face. 

To give him credit, he was quick. The terrible unseen 
grip of his mind-power clamped round me at once, like a 
reflex. But otherwise he was thunderstruck. His eye 
sockets seemed to have caught fire, and the yellow fangs 
clashed. 

'How did you . . .?' he spluttered. 'Where did 
you. . . ?' 

He stared at me wildly, then at the swamp around us. 
But there was nothing there to explain my escape. He 
didn't even notice that my pendant was no longer 
hanging down on my chest, but was tied back tight so 
that it pressed against my throat. 

I had expected him to grip me with the mind-power, 
but to leave me able to speak, as before. And the 
pendant could easily act as a throat-mike. 

'Your ship is gone, and your bomb with it,' I said 
coldly, 'to a place where it won't harm anyone. And 
neither will you, monster, ever again!' 

My words had the effect I wanted. The red eyes 
focused on me, like the tops of twin volcanoes. The 
claws curved, the fanged mouth opened wide, and the 
roar that came out was the sound of a maddened beast. 

'You think you have defeated me, Earthman?' he 
raged. 



36 



He began the leap that would have ended with me 
being turned into mincemeat. The swamp creatures 
would have enjoyed that, but they had to do without. 
Because at the moment that Rimeq had roared his 
maniacal roar, I had muttered a few coded words into 
the pendant-communicator at my throat. 

And, almost silently, my shuttle-pod floated into view 
above us, from behind the stand of trees where I had 
hidden it. 

Rimeq had just begun that fmal, murderous leap when 
the positron beam stabbed downwards from the shuttle- 
pod. 

I had positioned it just right. Rimeq the Renegade 
vanished, in a towering burst of white flame. 

Then I got up from the pool of ooze where the blast 
had flung me, kicked at a few toothy things that thought 
I'd dropped in for dinner, and called the shuttle-pod 
down to me. Back out in space, I would switch on the 
SOS beacon, and when the FedPol finally came, 1 could 
tell them where they could find Rimeq. In a pile of grey 
ash in the middle of a swamp. 

They'd find it, all right. It would be just about the only 
dry spot on the whole of Hallipor. 



The End 



37 



Ship of Mystery 



Muttering to myself, I crept out of the thicket, shaking 
off some sticky vines that were making advances towards 
me. Second pursuer or not, I had to go after the young 
cop, to keep an eye on him. 

I set off in his wake, moving as quietly as before. But I 
might have gone after him with a brass band. I was 
nearly in his back pocket before he reahzed that not all 
the splashing and squelching noises were being made by 
his own oversized boots. 

He whirled, saw me, tumed white, and reached for his 
photon gun. I could have shot him about eleven times, 
with a lunch break in between, while he was fumbhng 
the gun from its holster. But I just stood still, empty- 
handed, and grinned at him. 

'Who' re you?' he demanded. 'What're you doing 
here?' 

Still grinning, I told him. At the mention of Comman- 
der Verre's name, he automatically snapped to atten- 
tion, back straight, chin tucked in. He even tried to cUck 
his heels togetiber, but the effect was spoiled by the fact 
that he was standing ankle-deep in mud. 

Then he stood even straighter, and introduced him- 
self. 'Second Class FedPol Officer Boole, sir!' he 
bellowed. 

I winced. 'Fine,' I said, 'but I'm not an officer, this 

isn't a parade ground, so let's keep our voices down.' He 
blinked with surprise, as if the idea of caution was a 
startling new invention. 

'And why,' I asked, 'are you walking through this 



38 



swamp?' 

He-blushed a little. He had accidentally crashed his 
ship on landing, he explained, just after he had detected 
technology in an area nearby. Unable to contact the 
FedPol he had decided to check it out on his own. And 
the technology, he told me excitedly, was just up ahead. 

'I know,' I said tiredly. 'What were you planning to 
do, Boole - march in and arrest it?' 

He frowned. 'No, sir. 1 was going to investigate it and 
see if there was any sign of the criminal, Rimeq.' 

'Good thinking,' 1 said. 'But did it occur to you that if 
Rimeq was in or around this technology, the first you'd 
know of it would be when he tore your head off?' 

His chin jutted. 'I would approach carefully, sir.' 

'I'm sure,' I nodded. 'With the same care you've 
shown so far. I almost had to tap you on the shoulder 
before you noticed me.' 

That deepened his blush. 'I may not be much good at 
creeping round swamps,' he mumbled. 'But I'm not 
afraid of Rimeq, sir, you can be sure of that.' 

'Wonderful,' 1 said. 'He ought to be very impressed.' 1 
glanced around, aware that the unknown pursuer was 
still coming steadily along. But young Boole didn't need 
to know that, yet. 'Let's go,' 1 went on, 'and look at this 
technology together. Try to be as quiet as possible, and 
stay in cover.' 

He nodded eagerly. And I suppose from then he 
moved through the swamp a little more quietly than a 
brontosaurus, but not much. He made me think of a big, 
foolish, excited dog. Heel, Rover, I said silently. 

But he wasn't at heel, and right then his guardian 
angel took some time off. I saw the movement just in 
time for a diving tackle that took us both forward, face 
down in the muck, as the ghastly fungus-thing dropped- 
exactly where Boole had been. 

We got up together, paw ing at the slime that smeared 
our faces. 'Why did you. . . ?' he began. But then he saw 



39 



the fungus-thing heaving and flopping on the ground, 
and his eyes widened. They nearly popped from his head 
when I flipped the thing over with the toe of my boot, 
exposing that wide mouth with its hundreds of barbed 
hooks. 

'In this place,' I said sharply, 'you move with care. 
You stay alert, or you don't stay alive.' 
'Yessir,' he gulped. 'I'll try.' 

And he did try. We moved more quietly from then, 
though also more slowly, since Boole could not bring 
himself to go anywhere near another tree. But at least 
we moved and kept going until we came to a patch of 
firm ground with only a few clumps of crimson, fern-like 
plants growing on it. 

There was the technology we were seeking - a huge 
spaceship, shaped like half of a sphere, with the flat side 
down, supported about a metre from the ground on a 
magnetic hover-cushion. It was silent, unmoving, and 
had its main airlock wide open, a patch of darkness 
against the hull's curve.! had never seen a machine that 
gave out such an air of ominous, threatening menace. 

Even Boole must have felt it, for he shivered. 'What 
now, sir?' he muttered. 

'I'll get closer,' I told him. 'You stay put, and keep 
alert. 

'Shouldn't I come too, sir?' he asked. T am officially 
the law officer here. .' 

'Right,' I said, through clenched teeth. 'And you 
should try to remain a five law officer. Stay!' 

I half-expected him to bark as I slipped away. I began 
to circle round a little, intending to go in towards that 
open airlock at an angle. I was hurrying, because that 
unknown pursuer on our trail could be catching up with 
us in minutes. 

Perhaps Boole had picked up some of my sense of 
urgency. Because I was just getting myself into a good 
position when he decided that he should shift his 



40 



position. And, naturally, that was the moment when 
some big-mouthed swamp wriggler came to find out 
what Boole tasted like. 

The next few moments were not much less noisy than 
a parade. I heard Boole yelp, then a series of frantic 
splashings, and finally the hissing fizz of a photon gun. 
And then I saw Boole, moving backwards, out in the 
open, his gun trained on something in the ooze where 
he'd been. 

Grinding my teeth, I was about to shout at him to get 
back and shut up. But I said nothing, for Boole then did 

a very peculiar thing. 

He seemed to make a huge leap, back towards the 
swamp. But it wasn't really a leap, because his arms and 
legs were sticking out at odd angles, and he didn't seem 
to be coming back down. He looked like he was being 
curried along, above the ground, by some invisible force. 

And then I saw the other figure. Just a dim, shadowy 
shape, in the depths of a cluster of tall plants. I could see 
that it was human-shaped, though huge and broad of 
shoulder. But I knew it wasn't a human. The hair on my 
neck lifted, and my stomach seemed to fall into my 
boots. 

Where the head of the shadowy figure was, I could see 
two small but fierce red gleams, like rubies catching the 
Ught of a fire. 

Rimeq the Renegade was on Hallipor. He was the 
second, unknown pursuer on my trail. And it was his 
incredible mind-power that had grasped poor Boole, 
and dragged him back through mid-air into the swamp. 

For a moment I was unable to make my muscles work. 
And in that moment Boole's soaring flight carried him 
out of sight. Then the shadowy shape that had to be 
Rimeq moved silently away, in the seime direction, and 
was lost to view. 

So when I finally forced myself to move, I had to work 
out which way. That great hemisphere of a ship surely 



41 



belonged to Rimeq - and I had a chill feeling that i knew 
what I'd find inside it. So I wanted desperately to get in. 
But 1 also wanted to help young Boole, in the grip of the 
monster. 



Would Yoj go into the ship? Turn to page 54. 



Or would you go to the aid of Boole? Turn to page 62. 



Into Captivity 



Since we were already in the building, and Grees and his 
henchmen would probably sleep for a while yet, Mala 
and 1 decided to start with a look at the fat man's private 
quarters upstairs. 

Mala led the way, quick and silent as a cat, which 
impressed me. The door had as many security locks as 
the Interplanetary Bank, so it took me nearly two 
minutes to open it, which did not impress Mala. Then we 
were inside, and both of us were impressed. 

What had probably been Grees' idea of a rich and 
luxurious semi-palace had been remade for someone 
else. And you could tell, from the extra-long bed and the 
heavy furniture, who that someone was. But the furni- 
ture was less interesting than the large opening in one 
wall - a window that was about the size, I thought, of the 
cargo bay of a sky-freighter. That would have allowed 
the furniture, and other things, to be brought directly in 
by air, and probably at night, for extra secrecy. 

The other things included stacks of technical equip- 
ment and machinery, along the lines of advanced 
computers and data storage systems. While Mala looked 
around the rest of the place, I tapped a few keys to see if 
any computers were feeling chatty. But none of them 
were speaking to me. They were all locked tight by their 
own secret coding systems. 

Annoyed, I was about to suggest that we get out while 
we still could. But then my eye was caught by a glint of 
plastic on the floor. It was a card-shaped plastic wafer 
contairung printout material from one of the computers. 



43 



Then I looked again, shivered, and called Mala over. 

She knew what it was, too. The piece of plastic told us 
that the owner of the computers had been working out 
routes through the spaceways to a human world known 
as Earth. 

'The nulUty bomb,' Mala said darkly. 'It must be all 
set up.' 

'And he's crazy enough to use it anyway,' I said, 'even 
if Earth gives in to his demands.' 

'But where is it?' Mala hissed. 'And where' s Rimeq?' 
'Not far away.' 

Mala glanced at me curiously, wondering why my 
voice had changed. But it hadn't. It wasn't my voice that 
had answered. 

We had been too caught up with that piece of plastic, 
and hadn't been watching our backs. And there in the 
doorway stood the furry exter who worked for Grees. 
Clearly the effects of the gas had worn off faster for him 
than for the humans. He looked annoyed (the gas leaves 
a terrible headache) but his guns were aimed at us as 
steadily as ever. 

'In fact. Mister Rimeq is real close,' he went on. 
'Close enough to make you wish I'd shoot you here, the 
way I'd like to.' 

Mala and I said nothing. We didn't even look at each 
other. Yet as if we had arranged it beforehand, we 
began, slowly and carefully, to sidle away from one 
another. A centimetre at a time, we widened the gap 
between us, so that the exter would have to switch his 
gaze back and forth from one of us to the other. 

He caught on, eventually. 'Hold it!' he snarled. 
'Rimeq may want you alive, but he didn't say you 
couldn't be hurt!' 

We stopped. And then I saw that Mala was readying 
herself, hke a cat crouching to leap. 

'Don't do it,' I muttered quickly. 'You don't stand a 
chance. 



44 



' Good advice,' the extei snickered, as Mala wheeled 
and glared at me. But she had relaxed, as I'd wanted. 

Because I felt that if anyone was going to tackle this 
furry exter, it had better be me. I had the weapons, 
which he wouldn't know about. And I felt a childish urge 
to do something that might win Mala's approval. 

But then another thought struck me. Would it be wise 
to deal with the exter and escape? Where would that get 
us, except perhaps to keep us alive a while longer? Both 
Mala and 1 were after Rimeq. And the exter was going to 
take us to Rimeq, right then. 

So should I risk both our hves, I asked myself, by 
staying there and being taken to Rimeq? Or should I 
play safe, flatten the exter and get us away? 



If you would stay to confront Kimeq, turn to page 57. 



If you would make your escape, turn to pggg 67. 



Deadly Bluff 



As the FedPol officer splashed noisily past. I staved 
where 1 was. It was no time to rush out and say hello. My 
concern was with who, or what, was also coming along 
that well-travelled route through the swamp. So I drew 
back carefully into the brush, while fear created an 
unpleasant ripphng effect up and down my backbone. 

In a few minutes, he was there, silent as a shadow. 
One moment 1 was looking at a patch of tall, damp ferns, 
and the next I was staring at Rimeq the Renegade.- 

He hadn't changed over the years. He was still 
massive, still wearing that mottled, purplish hide and not 
much else. The yellow fangs and glinting claws, and 
those terrible red eyes flashing like danger signals in the 
dark sockets. Even the meat-eating monsters of the 
swamp stayed clear of him, recognizing a real monster 
when they saw one. 

He moved forward, light-footed for all his bulk. My 
positron guns leaped into my hands, and I could have 
blown him away right then. But 1 did one of the stupidest 
things I have ever done. I hesitated. 

It was partly because my hands were shaking, but also 
partly because 1 couldn't, even with a horror hke Rimeq, 
kill in cold blood, from ambush. 

And then it was too late. 

They say that wild beasts know, with some sixth sense, 
when they are being watched. And Rimeq, though he 
was an intelligent extra-terrestrial, was also his own kind 
of wild beast. He whirled, his red flaring eyes fixed on 
the thicket where I hid. And suddenly the thicket no 



46 



longer existed. 

The evil, mutant power of his mind had simply 
flattened the brush, and I was left as exposed as if I'd 
been on bare rock. Then I would have shot him, except 
that his mind-power had jerked the guns from my hands. 
Frantically I snatched at other weapons, but those too 
were torn from my grasp. My belt, rings and headband 
were ripped off me. My suit and even my boots were torn 
away. And in the end I was left standing there in my 
underwear, near to panic, as the awesome grip of his 
mind-power closed round me. 

Rimeq grinned with all the friendliness of a hungry 
crocodile. 'The swamp is full of surprises,' he said. 
'Earthmen lurk in bushes, believing they can capture 
Rimeq .' 

I said nothing, being too busy wondering how long I 
had to hve. 

Rimeq took a step forward, those demonic red eyes 
flickering. T have seen you before,' he said. 'You are 
Curb, the investigator, who should have died at my 
hands years ago.' Again he grinned, with a spread of 
yellow fangs. 'And now you stupidly are trying again. 
Perhaps with another pack of fools, as before?' 

He glanced in the direction that the FedPol cop had 
taken, but 1 shook my head quickly. 'He's nothing to do 
with me. I'm on my own.' 

His ugly laughter rang out. 'What depths of foohsh- 
ness! And what do you propose to do, Earthworm, when 
you are alone, unarmed, unclothed, and unable to 
move?' 

'I'll let you know,' I said, through gritted teeth. 

'1 think,' Runeq said, in a cruel gloating tone, 'you will 
not have the time.' 

His mind-power shifted its grip on me, and it was as if 
an invisible metal band had fastened round my throat. 
My breath was cut off as the pressure grew. There was a 
roaring in my ears, and a reddened blackness grew and 



47 



swelled at the edges of my vision. . . . 

'Hey!' 

For a moment I thought I was imagining it. A clear, 
strong, human voice, sounding puzzled and a little 
annoyed. 

'Did you throw this?' the voice demanded. 

The darkness drew back, and I found I could take a 
long, ragged breath. I also found that I was looking at 
the young FedPol cop, who was staring at me accusingly, 
and holding out one of my own positron guns. When 
Rimeq had wrenched it from my hand with his mind- 
power, he must have flung it away carelessly. It had 
landed near the young cop, who had come back to 
investigate. 

Which was too bad for him. 

'No, fool,' Rimeq snarled, 'I did.' 

Heavy brush had screened the monster from the cop's 
view. But now Rimeq stepped out and the cop barely 
had time to turn pale before that fearsome mind-power 
grasped him as well. It lifted him, and hurled him away 
like a discarded doll. 1 winced at the sickening crunch his 
head made when it hit the sohd trunk of a tree. 

Rimeq turned indifferently away, eyeing me again. 
'Are all humans so entirely brainless?' he asked. 

'No,' I said, happy to keep talking if it meant I could 
put off being strangled. 'For instance, I called the 
FedPol several minutes ago. So kUhng me won't do you 
much good.' 

'Nor you, I think,' he said with an evil grin. 'When 
your police come, you will be a corpse and I will be 
elsewhere.' 

Desperately, I tried a wild bluff 'Not with your nullity 
bomb!' I said quickly. 'I've already found that, and 
removed it to somewhere even your mind-power can't 
reach.' 

Something in my voice must have sounded convinc- 
ing, for the red eyes went a brighter scarlet. 'If that is so,' 



48 



Rimeq growled, 'you will learn how many agonizing 
ways I know to make you tell me where it is!' 

I would have shrugged, if I could have moved. 'The 
worst you can do is kill me. And that's better than letting 
you kill a whole world.' 

He paused for a moment, studying me. 'Perhaps you 
are fool enough to be heroic,' he said at last. 'And I 
cannot spare the time to question you properly.' 

He glanced around, and saw that the young cop, 
whose skull must have been solid rock, was stirring. 
'Instead,' Rimeq went on viciously, '1 shall tear the limbs 
from your friend, one at a time, until you tell me where 
the bomb is.' 

'You probably tear the wings off flies, too,' I mut- 
tered. But when I saw the young cop's right arm 
suddenly stretched straight out from his body, and heard 
his cry of shock and pain, I put a desperate urgency into 
my voice. 'AH right!' I yelled. 'Leave him alone! I'll teU 
you!' 

'Such soft-hearted weaklings, these Earthmen,' 
Rimeq sneered. 'Tell me, then.' 

'In my shuttle-pod,' I said, trying now to sound 
miserable and defeated. 'A couple of kilometres back in 

the swamp.' 

His fang-filled grin widened further with his victory. '1 
shall seek it,' he announced. 'But my powers can reach 
over a great distance and they will hold you here till I 
return. If you are lying, I will tear you apart - slowly.' 

He turned and vanished into the swamp, leaving me 
and the young cop staring dolefully at each other, both 
held fast by the monstrous mind-power. 

'Who are you, anyway?' he asked. 

I told him, and explained why I was there, which made 
him look respectful. 

'Do you think,' he said hopefully, 'one of us might 
break free, before he gets back?' 

'I doubt it,' I said. 'But we may not have to.' 



49 



He stared, as if he thought that fear had unhinged my 
mind. But right then I was more hopeful than fearful. I 
hoped that Rimeq, when he reached the shuttle-pod, 
wouldn't reach in with his mind-power and drag every- 
thing out. I wanted him, personally, to go into the pod, 
to look for the bomb that wasn't there. 

Perhaps some of the young cop's foolish luck rubbed 
off on me. I don't know. But soon I saw a pillar of flame, 
rising high over the swamp, followed by a distant, 
thunderous crash. 

The cop stared, pop-eyed, first at the flame and then at 
me. 'That was an explosion .... he breathed. 

I nodded. 'My shuttle-pod.' 

Naturally, being a careful man, when I'd set out on my 
ramble through the swamp, I'd switched on all the 
security safeguards on the pod. This meant that if 
anyone but me found his way into the pod, it did the 
noble thing and self-destructed. 

So Rimeq and the pod were now just so much hot ash, 
scattered over a kilometre or so of swamp. 

And the proof was that the cop and I were free from 
the grip of that evil mind-power. But the cop was still 
gaping at me, unable to believe that it was over. 

'When you're ready,' I said, with a half-smile, 'you 
might help me look for my clothes and things. If I don't 
find my communicator, I'll never be able to call my ship 
to come and get us out of this miserable swamp.' 



The End 



50 



Baited Trap 



It may seem criminally foohsh, since I was gambling with 
the life of a world, my world, but I wanted to try the plan 
that would put an end to the threat of the nullity bomb 
and to Rimeq as well. I couldn't bear the idea of that 
monster getting away and maybe making another bomb, 
and starting all over again. 

So I lifted the jewelled pendant around my neck, 
which was a powerful little communicator, and yelled for 
help. More precisely, I called the amazingly clever 
computer system that runs my own spaceship. 

It responded at speed, as always. A few moments 
later, something hit the barrel-ship that I was in, with a 
thunderous, explosive crash. The ship juddered and 
twisted, and when it settled down, it was no longer 
accelerating forward. 

I was grinning. I knew that my ship's delicate instru- 
ments would be able to locate the barrel-ship's engines, 
from the outside^ more easily than I could. And I had 
told my ship to find them, and to blast them. 

Now the barrel-ship was drifting, without power. My 
ship then thrust out a sturdy tractor beam that took hold 
of the barrel-ship hke a magnet grips a pin, and began to 
drag it downwards, back into the atmosphere of the 
planet. 

In that time, I busied myself with a few things inside 

the barrel-ship. Then, when we were far enough down, I 
opened the door of the barrel-ship, brought my own ship 
close, and leapt across the narrow gap. 
For a while then I sat and quivered quietly, while my 



51 



ship did the next thing I'd told it to do. It reversed 
direction, and with the tractor beam, dragged the 
barrel-ship back out into space. Just far enough to be out 
of sensor range. Then it switched off the tractor beam, 
and let the barrel-ship drift away, aimlessly, until it was 
Uttle more than a silvery speck in the black vastness. 

So far so good, I thought. Now for the tricky bit. 

I switched on the ship's communicator, on a wide 
beam that would cover half of the surface of HalUpor. 
And then I began calling. 

I was sure that Rimeq would have a ship of his own 
nearby, with a communicator. And I was right. In a very 
short while I had a response from a startled and furious 
Rimeq . 

'I've got away, killer,' I said blithely. 'I've disabled 
your ship, so the bomb will never reach Earth. And you 
can't reach me with your mind-power, because you don't 
know exactly where I am. You can't even trace this 
signal, because it's wide-beam.' 

There was a pause, during which I could almost hear 
him thinking. 'You are clever, Earthman,' he snarled at 
last. 'But not as clever as you think. What do I care if you 
get away? You are nothing.' 

'Maybe,' I said, trying to sound gleeful. 'But your 
bomb is drifting in space, useless. Yoiu" plan is ruined!' 

'Not at all,' he said, and there was now a cruel glee in 
his voice. 'Whatever you have done to my ship can be 
repaired - when I have brought it back, with the power 
of my mind.' 

'But . . . but you can't do that!' I gabbled, sounding 
horrified. 'You don't know where it is, either!' 

'You have made a mistake, Earthman,' he replied, 
gloatingly. 'It is my ship, and the equipment on board is 
computer-linked to equipment I have here. I can trace it 
and pinpoint the ship in seconds. So I will bring it down, 
repair it, and send it and the bomb on their way again. 
And will you come and try to stop me, as before?' 



52 



His mad laughter was cut off as he broke the 
connection. And"l waited, in the emptiness of space, and 
I watched. 

Sure enough, in less than a minute I saw the distant 
; silvery speck that was the barrel-ship begin to move, 
: slowly but steadily, on its way back down to the planet's 
surface under the control of Rimeq' s mind-power. 
Happy landings, I thought, grinning. 
There's an old tradition on Earth, known as the 
booby-trap. Rimeq wouldn't suspect, because he be- 
l lieved that I hadn't known he could reach his ship with 
: his mind. But 1 had been fairly sure that he'd have some 
: way of doing so. And he had taken the bait perfectly. 
Before I'd left the barrel-ship, I'd been busy. Every 
therm-grenade from my rings was now wired into its 
; systems. And in my hand was a httle box with a button, 
also linked with those systems. 

I waited, grinning, humming to myself. And in a few 
minutes my ship's sensors informed me that the barrel- 
ship had landed on Hallipor. I said thank you, waited 
half a minute more, and then jammed my thumb on the 
button. 

At that distance, of course, I saw nothing. But when I 
took my ship down low over the swamp, I saw what I 
wanted to see. 

The therm-grenades had detonated, on cue. Their 
furious fire had incinerated the entire barrel-ship and 
everything in it - including the evil cylinder of the nullity 
bomb - and had also blasted a square kilometre of 
swamp all around it. One way or another, Rimeq the 
Renegade was now just some of the cloud of ash and 
vapour rising from the surface of Hallipor. 

And I grinned some more, and hummed some more, 
and set my ship's controls for home. 



The End 



53 



Terror Bomb 



It may seem cold-blooded, but I decided in favour of the 
ship. I hoped I would find the nullity bomb inside, or at 
least some clue to where it was. But 1 also hoped to find a 
long-range communicator. I knew there was a good 
chance that 1 wouldn't survive, if Rimeq found me, and 1 
needed to call the FedPol and tell them where he was. 

So I went into that ship in a headlong dash, every 
nerve jumping. 

Most of the equipment was familiar, and 1 soon found 
the communicator. I put out an interplanetary call, using 
Commander Verre's name to be sure of being hstened 
to. While I was doing that, 1 spotted a sensor unit on the 
control panel that was signalling the presence of intelli- 
gent Mfe forms nearby. So that was why Rimeq had been 
wandering in the swamp looking for unwelcome visitors. 
And if it hadn't been Boole that he'd found, it might 
have been me. 

Then I went into a central area that was fitted out like 
an advanced laboratory. And there was a large, oblong 
metal object that made my heart thump just to look at it. 
I didn't need a guidebook to tell me that it was the nullity 
bomb. Nor did I need a diagram to tell me how the 
ghastly thing would be activated. 

And then the ghost of a crazy idea tiptoed into my 
mind. If I could make it work, Rimeq could be stopped. 
Even though it was likely that I wouldn't be around at 
the time to know it. 

Quickly, before I could think about that too much, I 
lugged the evil mechanism out of the laboratory. In a 



54 



narrow storeroom nearby I tucked it away behind some 
heavy crates. Then 1 went back to the control room and 
switched on the ship's main drive. 

The bellow of the mighty engines would surely be 
heard for many kilometres. But I didn't run and hide. I 
left the ship, moving well away from its down-blast, and 
watched it begin its slow, majestic lift-off. Then 1 simply 
stood there and waited. 

He didn't keep me waiting long. Suddenly he was 
standing at the edge of the clearing. A vast bulk of 
muscle within that armour of scaly hide, bright claws and 
yellow fangs gleaming, and the mad red coals of his eyes 
fixed on me. His monstrous mind-power reached out 
and gripped me, as if a giant invisible strait-jacket had 
wrapped itself around my body. But he had left me able 
to speak, which was all I needed. 

'Another Earthman,' Rimeq rasped. 'And as big a 
fool as the other one.' 

'Have you killed him?' I asked coldly. 

'Not yet,' the monster said. 'He remains in the swamp, 
awaiting my return.' 

I was glad of that. I'd felt guilty about poor Boole - as 
well as grateful. If he hadn't occupied Rimeq' s atten- 
tion, I could never have done what I'd done. 

'You seem familiar, Earthman,' Rimeq was saying. 
'Like someone I thought I had killed years ago. But no 
matter. You can die now, after you've told me what you 
think you are doing.' 

'What I'm doing,' I said, 'is putting an end to your 
merry little plot of destroying Earth.' 

He laughed, a crazed titter, and glanced up at his 
spaceship, now no more than a distant ghmmer in the 
sky. 

'I've taken the nullity bomb off your ship,' I went on 
calmly, 'and hidden it. You can't reach it with your 
mind-power, because you don't know where it is. And 
I've activated it. In about a minute it is going to kill this 



55 



planet. Every living thing on Hallipor, including you and 
I, will die. And you can't get away.' 

The terrible red eyes were flaring like welding torches 
as Rimeq laughed again. 'You have no idea of the power 
of my mind, fool. Of course I can get away. See!' 

The power that gripped me tilted my head up, and I 
saw. Rimeq' s ship was returning, hurtling downwards at 
frightening speed. But then it slowed, and settled back 
where it had been, as hghtly as a leaf. 

Rimeq leaped to its airlock. 'The bomb may explode,' 
he shouted to me, 'but I will build another. I will leave 
you alive to enjoy these last seconds. And I will watch 
from space, as my bomb spreads its death over you and 
all this planet!' 

Then he was gone, and the ship howled upwards, 
vanishing in seconds into the clouds. 

1 found that 1 could move again. The mind-power had 
been withdrawn. And only then did I heave a giant sigh 
of relief. 

So much could have gone wrong. Rimeq might not 
have been able to recall his ship, the bomb might have 
been badly timed, Rimeq might have taken me with 
him .... But it had all gone as I'd hoped. Rimeq had 
gone into the safety of deep space, to watch and gloat, 
not knowing that he had taken the bomb with him, 
hidden in that storeroom on his ship. 

And 1 had activated it, as I'd said. When it went off, it 
would kill every living thing within a planet's radius. But 
out there in space, there were no living things within such 
an area. Just Rimeq. 

1 wondered for an moment if the FedPol would be able 
to find that ship later, and what was left of Rimeq. Then 1 
trudged off into the swamp, to look for poor Boole. He 
probably still didn't know what had hit him. But 1 would 
tell the FedPol how heroic and useful he'd been, and 
they'd probably make him a First Class Officer on the 
spot. 

The End 



56 



Desperate Challenge 



Normally, since I'm a careful man, 1 would have got out 
of there at speed, even though 1 would then have had to 
start looking for Rimeq all over again. But somehow I 
couldn't face the acid remarks that I knew Mala would 
make, if I did. So I stayed still and so did Mala, looking 
furious. And the exter stepped back, and gestured with 
his guns for us to come out of the door. 

Once again I was marched along with gun-barrels 
jabbing into my back. Another corridor, another ramp 
leading upwards, to the only place left to go, in that 
direction. The roof of the building. 

Up there, above the tangled passages of the Laby- 
rinth, the darkness was complete. I was just going to 
suggest that somebody put a hght on, when somebody 
did. 

The light came from the suddenly opened door of a 
large, sleek sky-cruiser that had been set down on the 
roof. And framed in the light was a sight that made my 
scalp prickle, and made Mala stifle a gasp. 

A taU, hulking, human-shaped figure, as far as 1 could 
tell, under the folds of a long cloak. But the hood of the 
cloak had been thrown back, and the face could be seen 
clearly. More clearly than anyone would care for. 

The mottled, purplish skin, the grinning yellow fangs 
and, above all, the lurid crimson flare of the eyes, deep 
in their shadowed sockets. 

The nightmare monster that was Rimeq the Renegade 
stepped down from the cruiser and came towards us. 
And as he came, he'laughed, a sound like someone filing 



57 



rock. 

'Spies,' he snarled. 'A little police agent and the fool 
who asked questions in the sky-bar, but who will not 
escape me a second time.' 

I tiiought of informing him that I had already escaped 
him twice, but decided against it. Anyway, Mala was 
doing the talking. 

'Where is the nullity bomb, you, you monster?' she 
demanded. 

Rimeq snorted. 'The female of the species, braver 
than the male as always. The bomb is in space, Ear- 
thling, on its way to kill every living thing on your home 
world.' 

I shivered at that, but Mala didn't blink. 'When will it 
get there?' she asked sharply. 

Rimeq' s evil grin widened. 'It will emerge from its 
faster-than-hght stage at a precise point in space. And 
then, after the Earth has suffered terror and panic for 
long enough, 1 will reach out and seize the bomb with the 
power of my mind, and fling it towards the Earth. 
Perhaps in a day or so.' 

I raised my eyebrows. 'Your mental power can reach 
that far?' 

'My power is almost without Umit,' Rimeq said 
boastfully. 

'Really?' I let my hp curl. 'And I'll bet you're totally 
useless without it.' 

It's fairly easy to annoy most insane, boastful master 
criminals, and Rimeq was no different. His red eyes 
seemed to burst into flame. 'I need none of my mind- 
power to crush you. Earthworm,' he roared, 'or a 
hundred like you!' 

'I'm glad you said that,' I said coldly. 'Because I'm 
challenging you, here and now, to fight me, bare-handed 
- no weapons, no mind-power.' 

Mad laughter rang into the night. 'You - challenge 
me? Are you seeking to impress the female, or merely 

58 



hoping for a quick death?' 
I shrugged, saying nothing. 

The monster laughed again. 'Very well, we will fight. 
No weapons, no mind-power.' He glanced past me. 
'Search him!' 

Then I noticed that Grees and the two big human 
thugs had joined us on the roof. And they did as Rimeq 
ordered, while the furry exter held his guns on me. 

They muttered and grunted with some surprise as they 
started finding my weapons - the guns on the wrists and 
in the pockets, the knives in the boots and so on. That's 
when they decided to peel me out of my clothes to be 
sure, and of course found more little items in my belt, in 
the seams of my suit and elsewhere. They even took my 
rings and headband, until at last I was standing there in 
my underwear, shivering slightly in the breeze that was 
blowing my hair around my face. 

By then Rimeq had doffed his cloak, and his men had 
started laughing. I suppose I never was a Mr Universe, 
and beside the towering bulk of purple muscle that was 
Rimeq, I might have looked a trifle spindly. Even Mala, 
who was supposed to be on my side, muttered something 
about 'Sir Galahad in his underpants'. But I ignored 
them all, having other things to think about. 

Rimeq 's fangs gleamed. 'You thought I would be 
useless without my mind-power, Earthman. What use 
are you without your arsenal of weapons?' 

Then he laughed his mad laugh once more, and 
charged. 

But he didn't come at me bhndly. I soon found that 
despite the mind-power and the fangs and claws, Rimeq 
knew a good deal about combat. He came fast and hard 
and deadly, and if the first blows of his fists had struck 
home, the fight would have been over. 

But they struck night air, for I had got moving too. 
Not being huge and powerful, I had learned my own 
share of the unarmed-combat arts. I hit him three times 

59 



while I was dodging that first charge, and went oa 
dodging, and hitting, as fast and hard as I could. 

But I soon knew that it wasn't enough. Even my 
hardest blow - a nicely timed sweep-kick into his; 
muscular purple belly - only staggered him for a secondl 
or two. And I couldn't go on dodging and hitting; 
forever, because I would soon tire. Whereas Rimeq| 
hadn't even started breathing hard. 

He also knew that it was only a matter of time before 
one of his rushes caught me. He knew it, and laughed. 
And that made me angry, more so than usual perhaps,, 
because if I lost this fight it would be the whole Earth 
that would die. 

So there was only thing to do. I cheated. 

First, I flung myself into a drop-kick that slammed one 
foot against Rimeq's head. It rocked him back, off 
balance for an instant, and my risky follow-up chop to 
his neck nearly sent him tumbling. But as he staggered, I 
didn't pursue him. 

Instead, 1 stiffened, as if suddenly unable to move, my 
arms sticking out rigidly at weird angles. And I yelled at 
him, in a half-choking voice. 

'Coward!' I yelled. 'The mind-power. . . !' 

Rimeq, regaining his balance, looked startled. And at 
the cry of outrage from Mala, and a faint growl of 
disapproval from his men, he glanced their way, still 
startled and puzzled. 

It was just what I wanted. Because I was faking - he 
wasn't using the mind-power. And while he was looking 
away, I ripped my hair off, and threw it at him. 

Well, not really my hair. But it's an expensive wig, and 
looks like my hair. Underneath, my own hair is dull and 
brown and, I admit it, getting a little thin. But that's not 
the only reason I wear the wig. 

Since Rimeq was looking away, he didn't quite have 
time to fling the wig away, with his mind-power oir 
otherwise. And the mini-grenade in the wig exploded in 



60 



his face. 

By then I was nearly all the way across the roof, in a 
.desperate leaping lunge. Rimeq's men had hardly begun 
to move,, in their dazed shock, but even so I might not 
have made it, if Mala hadn't disarmed the furry exter 
with a scything kick, flattened him with a straight right, 
and then twisted to sink a fist elbow-deep into Grees' 
enormous paunch. As she did so I slammed into the two 
big human thugs hke a missile. And when I got up, they 
stayed down. 

[ grinned at Mala. 'You wouldn't be interested in 
becoming a partner in an investigation agency?' I asked 
her. 

She didn't even hear me. She was staring grimly at the 
huge purple body of Rimeq the Renegade, stretched out 
on the roof. The huge, purple, headless body. 

'The nullity bomb ... Mala said, half to herself. 
"It'll come out of FTL like a good little bomb,' I told 
her, 'and will wait to be redirected by Rimeq's mind- 
power. Only Rimeq doesn't have a mind any more, and 
the bomb will wait forever.' 

She turned, glaring. 'Did you think I couldn't work 
that out for myself?' she snapped. 'Why don't you get 
dressed? You look silly.' 

Silly? I had just saved the Earth and put an end to the 
deadliest killer in the galaxy, and 1 looked silly? 'Just for 
that,' I said stiffly, 'I withdraw my offer of a partnership.' 

'You'd better hope I don't start up an agency of my 
own,' Mala said. 'You couldn't handle the competition.' 



The End 



61 



The Swamp Strikes Back 



Cursing Boole for being an idiot, cursing myself for 
being a sentimental fool, I turned my back on the ship 
that probably held a planet- killing bomb, and plunged 
back into the swamp. 1 couldn't just walk away and leave 
that blundering kid in Rimeq's grip. 

It didn't take me long to catch up with them. Rimeq 
had found the hillock of dry ground where I had rested 
before, and was standing there in full view. It was not a 
pleasant view. Seen clearly, he seemed even bigger, with 
a giant torso and legs hke pillars. The ghnting claws 
curled, ready to tear and rend, the yellow fangs gleamed 
hungrily, and those deep-set red eyes flared like fires to 
roast poor Boole alive. 

But at least the poor idiot was aUve. He was also still . 
hanging in mid-air, held there by Rimeq's fearsome 
mind-power. And Rimeq was having a talk with him, in 
his own cruel way. 

'1 know there are two of you,' the monster was saying. 
'And I will continue to hurt you until you tell me where 
the other Earthman is.' 

Boole, to give him credit, looked more furious than 
frightened. 'I'll never tell you!' he shouted defiantly. 
'Even if you kill me!' 

'That 1 will certainly do,' Rimeq rasped. 'But if you do 
not tell me, you will suffer horribly for a long time before 
you die.' 

I heard Boole grunt, saw his face twist and grow 
suddenly shiny with sweat. Rimeq's mind-power was 
torturing him foully and I had to stop it. 

62 



' It could have been simple. Boole was keeping the 
monster occupied, my positron guns were in my hands, 
■so all 1 had to do was blast Rimeq where he stood. But I 
didn't quite do so in time, and then it was too late. 

Boole soared upwards, with a choking, pain-filled ciy, 
high into the sky. And Rimeq watched him, grinning 
'cruelly. 

"I could take you further, Earthman,' he shouted. 'Up 
into space, where your blood would boil and your lungs 

would burst ! ' 

I lowered my guns, cursing. If I shot Rimeq now, 
Boole would fall, which would kill him as surely as 
anything else. 

: And then I could hardly believe my ears. Boole was 
shouting too, as brave and defiant as ever. And as 
; clumsy as ever. What he said was probably his idea of a 
:clever bluff. But he couldn't have said a worse thing. 

'AH right, I'll tell you where the other man is!' Boole 
yelled. 'He's right behind you, that's where!' 

Which of course was perfectly true, though the poor 
idiot couldn't have known it. So I had to duck further 
back into hiding, as quickly as possible, because Rimeq's 
terrible red eyes had swung round to search the swampy 
brush for me. 

As I slid back I caught sight of Boole soaring back 
down, which was a relief Rimeq then swung him around 
to use his body as a shield. But that didn't matter, 
because I was in no position then to shoot at him 

anyway. 

Crouching within a dank, dark thicket, my flesh 
crawled, expecting at any second to feel the impact of 
that mind-power. But nothing happened. And then I 
knew that Rimeq couldn't use his power on something 
unless he knew exactly where it was. He had to see 
something, or get a fix on it in some way, before he could 
grasp it and control it. 

That gave me an idea. And though I would have been 

63 



happy to give it back, it seemed to be the only idea 
available. As silently as I could, I drifted away through 
the swamp. 

'Earthman!' Rimeq's hoarse voice made me jump. 
'There is no escape! Show yourself, or I will kill your 

Mend!' 

'No friend of mine!' 1 yelled back, hoping that Rimeq 
couldn't pinpoint my position from sound alone. 

And apparently he couldn't, because it was lung 
power he used, not mind-power. 'What do you hope to 
do, fool?' he shouted. 'If you were an army you could 
not overcome me!' 

'Is that so?' I yelled, still keeping out of sight. 'Then 
why are you afraid to come and face me?' 

The growl that replied to those words sounded as 
savage as an entire zoo. But I had expected it. Being an 
over-confident, murderous maniac, Rimeq was always 
likely to respond to a direct challenge. And I wanted him 
to - though I also wanted to stay out of his way long 
enough to make the rest of my crazy plan work. 

At least I had Rimeq's full attention, because I'd 
heard the splash and the yell which meant that he had 
released young Boole from his mind-grip, dropping him 
a metre or so into the muck. Now I had to keep Rimeq's 
attention, and lead him to where I wanted him. 

I nearly lost that nerve-wracking game of hide-and- 
seek three times in the first minute. For all his size, 
Rimeq was quick, and was wasting no time on stealth. 
He plunged straight through the swamp towards the 
sound of my voice, and a stone wall wouldn't have 
slowed him down. 

But I managed, barely, to keep ahead of him and out 
of sight. And finally I reached the sort of dense stand of 
swamp plants that I was looking for. There I pulled the 
bright pendant from my neck, hooked it on a twig so it 
looked as if it had been torn away by accident, and then 
shd silently into a murky pool so that only my eyes and 



; nose were above water, screened by undergrowth. 
I didn't have to wait too long, not even long enough 
for some of the pool's flesh-eaters to move in on me. 
Rimeq charged furiously into the midst of the trees, 
skidded to a halt by my pendant, and stared round, red 
eyes flaming with blood-lust. He was just where I wanted 
himtobe. 
But nothing happened. 

I swore silently, but I was helpless. If I stood up and 
tried to make something happen, the monster would 
have me in that lethal mind-grip in the first second. And 
if I didn't, Rimeq would move away, and it would be 
goodbye to my plan. 

But then I had some unexpected help. In another 
burst of flailing and splashing, young Boole crashed on 
to the scene. His face was red with fury, and in one hand 
'he was hefting a heavy stick, as a makeshift club. 

I marvelled at the blind courage that had brought the 
boy into the swamp with only a club, to face the galaxy's 
most deadly killer. But I was glad of it. Because Boole 
angrily hurled the club just as Rimeq saw him. 

The club missed Rimeq, of course, and Boole went 
hurtling backwards as Rimeq's mind-power swept him 
away as carelessly as 1 might brush at a fly. But the club 
had struck a tree, the very tree on which I'd hooked my 
pendant, and under which Runeq was standing. And my 
crazy plan became a reahty. 

On the branch above Rimeq, the fungus-thing that 
had been too lazy to move before, as I'd wanted it to, 
was finally stirred by the impact of the club on its tree. It 
spread itself, and dropped, directly on to Rimeq, 
wrapping itself around his head. 

1 surged up out of the pool just as the fungus-thing was 
flung away - whether by Rimeq's hands or his mind- 
power I never knew. But it was too late. All those 
barbed hooks had sunk into Rimeq's purple hide at the 
instant of impact. And when Rimeq ripped the thing 



64 



65 



away from his head, those hooks took a lot of Rimeq 
with them. 

The bubbling, choking screams were the worst, even 
worse than the sight of the crimson horror that had been 
Rimeq' s face. He jerked and staggered, pawing desper- 
ately at that mask of blood, frantic in his bUndness and 
agony. 

And I had no choice. Shaken and sickened by the 
gruesome result of my plan, 1 raised my guns and put an 
end to the screaming. 

Then I turned my back firmly on what was left of 
Rimeq the Renegade, and trudged away to find Boole, 
trying to work out how my one-person shuttle-pod could 
get both of us back up to my ship, in the clean and silent 
depths of space. 



The End 



Self-sacrifice 



I may have mentioned before that I'm a careful man, 
with no great desire to die young. So I decided that if I 
had to come face to face with Rimeq the Renegade, I'd 
like it to be on my terms, not with a fur-covered exter 
holding a gun on me. 

That meant that it was time to go. The exter was still 
shifting his eyes back and forth between Mala and me, 
and didn't notice the small movement when 1 turned one 
of my rings round on my finger. Nor did he notice the 
flick of my thumb that sent the jewel from that ring flying 
out of its setting. 

I don't think the exter even saw the tiny object sailing 
towards him. But he did see my sudden movement, and 
was a millisecond away from firing when my ring-jewel 
exploded. 

The room was filled with the nerve-twisdng vibradons 
of infra-sonics. They hurt, but they didn't knock me out 
- because my sudden movement had been to clap my 
hands over my ears, and it's through the ears that sonics 
deliver their knock-out punch. The furry exter went 
down as if someone had kicked his feet from under him. 

And so, of course, did Mala. I scooped her up and 
slung her over my shoulder, knowing that she was going 
to feel even less friendly towards me when she woke up. 
But that was the least of my worries then. 1 got the huge 
window open, slid out on to a ledge, and managed a neat 
bit of scrambUng that got me on to a neighbouring 
rooftop despite Mala's weight. Then it was easy, since 
Labyrinth buildings are jammed close together, to hop 



67 



from roof to roof until I was far enough away to feel safe. 

Then I paused, and thought. They weren't pleasant 
thoughts, but I couldn't escape them. 

I reminded myself that Rimeq the Renegade was back 
there somewhere - not far away, the furry exter had 
said. And if I was going to do the job I'd come to do, I'd 
have to go back there. 

So I sighed, placed Mala's Ump form gently on the 
roof and started back. 

Soon I was lying flat on the roof of the building where 
Grees' apartment was. From the large open window of 
the apartment, below me, I could hear raised voices - 
mainly the high voice of Grees, who was giving several 
pieces of his mind to his men for letting us get away. But 
then the shouting died away and the group left the 
apartment-probably to search for us in the mazes of the 
Labyrinth. And good luck to them, I thought with a grin. 

Then I sUd over the edge of the roof and climbed down 
into the apartment, planning to finish the search that had 
been so rudely interrupted. But a moment after I had 
gone back in through the big window, I realized that it 
had not been a good idea. 

The window became a bright oblong of light, and the 
room was filled with a menacing rumble. I didn't even 
need to look to know what was happening. I barely had 
time to dive into the welcome shadows behind a bank of 
computer consoles when the bulky sky-freighter floated 
smoothly up beside the window, and locked itself into 
position. 

But it wasn't bringing cargo - just terror and the 
promise of death. Through the window, from the 
freighter, stepped Rimeq the Renegade, glaring around 
the room with the mad fire of his crimson eyes. 

That was bad enough. Worse, the monster was 
carrying Mala, like a child in those mighty arms. He 
must have spotted her on the roof where I'd left her, as 
the freighter passed over. And now she was only 



68 



centimetres from the cruel yellow fangs of the galaxy's 
most vicious killer. 

She was also awake, and I was impressed to see that 
she looked more angry than afraid. 

T don't know where he is,' she was saying. Clearly 
Rimeq had been asking after me, not in a friendly 
fashion. 

'Very well,' the monster growled. 'Tell me instead 
how many more FedPoI are on this planet.' 

Mala struggled, uselessly, in the powerful clawed grip. 
'I don't know that either,' she spat- 'And I wouldn't tell 
you if I did.' 

'But you will,' Rimeq said with a fanged grin. 'Or I 
shall hurt you very badly.' 

Mala's face was stark white, but her chin was set 
firmly, and I knew that she would fight Rimeq through 
every torture he could invent, until she died. It was time 
I did something. 

But from where I was hiding, I couldn't risk a pot shot 
at Rimeq. The angle was too awkward, and Mala was 
'too close to him. That left only one thing to do. 

Raising my hands unhappily above my head, I stepped 
out from my hiding-place. 

'Put her down, Rimeq,' I said. 'I'm the one you want.' 

The red eyes flamed as he whirled - and, as his 
mind-power surged out, it felt as if a thousand strong but 
unseen hands had clutched me. 

'You are not the one I want, fool,' he said evilly. 'Your 
heroics are wasted. She has information I need. You 
have nothing.' 

That stung me. But before I could think of a reply. 
Rimeq shifted part of his mind-power and Mala sailed 
across the room, to be held against the wall as firmly as I 
was still held. Then all those fangs gUttered in another 
vicious grin. 

'I remember you now,' he snarled. 'You are the 
investigator, Curb, who escaped me years ago and again 



69 



today at the sky-bar. You will escape no more.' 

GrowUng deep in his throat, he came at me in a rush. 

I had thought he would do so, just as he had done all 
those years before. Rimeq likes to kill in any way, but he 
especially likes the personal touch, up close with fang 
and claw. But I had also remembered something else 
from the first time I'd faced him. At the moment of the 
kill, Rimeq sUdes a little further towards being a 
blood-maddened beast. When he strikes at a victim, his 
mind shuts off - and with it, his mind-power. 

I was counting on that. Which is why, before raising 
my hands in the air, I had given a sUght twist toone of my 
rings. 

Then he was upon me, like a starved tiger. 1 felt those 
steely claws sink deep into my flesh ... 1 saw the yellow 
daggers of his fangs gape wide, flashing down at my 
throat. . . . 

But I also felt the invisible grip of the mind-power fade 
away, so that I could move again. 

I couldn't have freed myself from those lethal claws, 
even if I'd tried. But I didn't try. In that last desperate 
fraction of a second, I simply slammed my hand, 
open-palmed, down on the top of Rimeq 's great purple 
head. 

It wasn't a therm-grenade, just a plain concussion 
bomb, mini-size. Even so, the blast flung me away like a 
broken doll. My eyes seemed filled with fire and then the 
fire gave way to blackness, and I never did feel myself hit 
the floor .... 

Nor did I ever expect to feel anything again. But to my 
intense surprise, I woke up and found that only a few 
minutes had passed, and that Mala was working on my 
injuries with a speed and competence that suggested I 
might live a while longer. 

Maybe there's a kind of dumb luck that goes along 
with taking crazy, suicidal risks. But I worked out, later, 
that the explosion from my ring had been oddly focused. 



70 



Instead of spreading out in all directions, most of the 
blast had been directed downwards, and had blown the 
top half of Rimeq the Renegade to smaU purple bits. I 
merely caught the side effects, which did me a lot of 
painful damage but didn't kill me. 

Even the damage wasn't permanent. Mala gave me 
first aid, then called the FedPol and the medics. 
Surgeons did their thing with transplants, and now I 
have new eyes and a new right hand just as good as the 
old ones. The only unhappy thing is that I have never 
seen Mala since, because she showed no interest in 
seeing me. 

When I tried to contact her, she told me curtly that she 
had no time for the kind of man who took crazy risks that 
nearly got themselves killed. The kind of man she 
respected, she said, was the careful sort, who didn't take 
foohsh chances. 



The End 



The Creature in the Cage 



A dozen times I started to move away from the dark and 
menacing mouth of that tunnel, and a dozen times some 
leftover sense of duty dragged me back. I had come here 
after Rimeq, so I had to enter that tunnel. 

I would rather have entered the lair of an Incollian 
fire-worm. But finally I forced myself forward, and 
edged into the chill blackness. 

A brief flash of my headband light did not cheer me. 
The tunnel was in fact many branching tunnels, each as 
dark and ominous as the others. I had visions of myself 
creeping around in there forever, like a lost tourist in the 
Labyrinth city. 

But I kept going. A man can only go one road at a 
time, I thought -which sounded good but wasn't much 
help. I went one way, then backtracked and went 
another, then another .... By then, the branching 
timnels had themselves started to divide into new 
branches, and I was no longer sure of the way out. So I 
kept going in. 

Maybe people stupid enough to go into a maze of 
tuimels after the most insane killer in the galaxy deserve 
some luck. Anyway, I had some. A faint and distant 
cUnk came to my ears and when I crept nervously in that 
direction awhile, I saw a dim glimmer of light. 

I sUd forward, silent as a ghost. And as jumpy as 
someone who has just seen a ghost. 

The tunnel curved slightly and opened out a little 
wider. It then came to an end, at a wide cave-like 
chamber, carved into the rock. It needed to be wide, for 



72 



it held a good many things. 

My eyes swept over a display of high-tech equipment - 
the kind of thing you'd expect to find in the laboratory of 
a mad scientist. Which is what this chamber was, in a 
way. If Rimeq had made himself a nuUity bomb, he 
would have needed a laboratory just like this. . . . 

But then my gaze was caught and held by something 
else, at one side of the chamber. And though the thought 
of the nullity bomb had a freezing effect on my 
bloodstream, this object made me feel even colder. It 
was a large, heavy cage, with sturdy bars and a sturdier 
lock. But I couldn't clearly see what was in the cage, 
because the spaces between the bars seemed oddly hazy, 
filled with a flickering, shimmering glow. 

All I could make out through the haze was a shapeless 
form, huddled on the floor. And it seemed to be 
moaning softly. 

The sight of this wretched, caged creature - no doubt 
waiting for Rimeq to return and begin one of his slow, 
savage murders - filled me with rage. And the fact that 
there was no sign of a tall, red-eyed monster in a long 
cloak filled me with courage. I was across the chamber in 
a flash. 

'I'm a friend,' I whispered reassuringly to the huddled 
form in the cage. 'He's not here. I'll have you out in a 

second.' 

In fact it took a little longer. But eventually I found 
the hidden switch that made the glowing haze in the cage 
fade and vanish. Then it was simple to pick-the lock, and 
swing the cage door open. And I stood there smiling 
proudly, as the shapeless figure slowly rose from the 
cage floor. 

At which point the smile froze on my face. I was 
looking at someone wearing a heavy cloak. Someone 
with a huge, mottled, purplish head, from which yellow 
fangs gUttered, and red eyes glowed Uke furnaces. 

'I am glad you escaped the sky-bar, Earthling,' hissed 



73 



Rimeq the Renegade, 'so you could come and rescue 
me.' 

'But you . . .11 spluttered. 'But I. . . ! But. . . !' 

In my total shock, 1 could find no words. And that was 
too bad, because words were about all I had left. The 
rest of me had become paralysed, as if I'd been dipped 
into molten plastic and left to harden. Rimeq' s eerie 
mind-power had enclosed me in its grip, and I was sure 
that I would never come out of it ahve. 

The monster laughed, a sound like an alligator's 
belch. 'Did you think the cage held some innocent 
victim? So you rushed to the rescue, switching off the 
force-field that protected the lock from my mind- 
power. . . .' 

That really made me feel sick. A force-field, the only 
possible barrier to Rimeq's mind. I might even have 
figured out myself what that shimmering haze was, if I 
hadn't been so eager to play hero. Whoever had put 
Rimeq in that cage, I thought, was not going to be 
pleased with me. 

But I didn't think that would bother me much. 
Because death was only half a minute away. Rimeq was 
moving towards me, fingers curled into clawed hooks, 
fangs gleaming. And, held by the mind-power, I could 
only stand still, watching those dripping fangs come 
closer, smeUing the sickly, penetrating stink of the 
monster. . . . 

The last thought I had was that the stink seemed 
familiar. 

And the next thought I had was that I shouldn't be 
able to have any thoughts at all. 

But 1 was alive, coming awake with my face on a cold 
stone fioor. And I was held in some kind of grip, but it 
was the grip of metal shackles, not the all-embracing 
clasp of Rimeq's mind-power. 

I didn't know what had happened, but I wasn't 
complaining. I can handle metal shackles. The Uttle 



74 



molecular knife slid out from my belt buckle and sheared 
through the metal as if it had been paper. 

But I was only just getting to my feet when there was a 
kind of rustle behind me, and a rasping voice snapped, 
'Do not move!' 

I froze - in more ways than one. Because a tall, 
cloaked figure moved into view, holding a weapon that 
looked like a gas-gun, pointed at my face. 

I closed my eyes, despairingly, waiting for the grip of 
the mind-power, the approach of yellow fangs. But 
when nothing happened, I opened my eyes and looked 
up. 

It wasn't Rimeq. 

Tall and cloaked, yes. An extra-terrestrial, yes, with a 
thick purplish skin. But in his case it was a light lilac, not 
at all mottled. And he had no claws, and only ordinary 
teeth, if a little yellowish. And the eyes set deep in the 
bony sockets were not a mad, murderous crimson, but a 
warm gold. 

'The monster lies in the cage once more,' the stranger 
said sternly, 'and you shall not free him again, even if 
you have freed yourself.' 

'I didn't want to free him in the first place,' I said 
humbly. And I told him who I was, and explained as 
briefly as possible. 

When he had looked at a credential or two, the 
lilac-skinned stranger actually smiled, quite pleasantly, 
and lowered his gas-gun. Which made me realize that 
the stink I had smelled had been the gas, putting both 
Rimeq and me to sleep before he could kill me. 

'So you thought I was the Renegade, and he the 
victim,' the stranger said. 'Of course you could not have 
known. But I am Moquar, known as The Wanderer, 
from the planet Kalgor. I have pursued Rimeq these 
many years, since the terrible day when he turned 
against his own people, my people.' 

'And the others, at the ship?' I asked. 



75 



'Also of Kalgor. And, thanks to you, we now at last 
have the monster, and the evil weapon he has made. We 
will return him to Kalgor, to face execution.' 

That was good news, but I was puzzled. 'Thanks to 
me?' I repeated. 'I nearly let him get away. . . .' 

'True,' Moquar said. 'But earlier, when he-knew we 
were on this world, Rimeq went into hiding. And we 
might never have found him if he had not exposed 
himself by trying to kill you at the sky-bar. Just as I might 
not have recaptured him, here, had he not stayed to kill 
you, so allowing me to use the gas-gun. You see, you 
have done us great service.' 

'Oh, fine,' I said faintly. 'Glad to help.' 

But all 1 could think of at that moment was that I could 
never go fishing again. Because I'd always know just 
how the bait felt. . . . 



The End 



Grip of the Mind-power 



Once we had decided on the warehouse, it took Mala 
and me only a short while to find it. But it looked hke 
taking me rather longer to find a way into it, through the 
solid seal of the heavy metal doors. Mala grew impa- 
tient, and I grew annoyed. 

In the end 1 drew a long filament from my belt, which 
looked hke a length of string, and began jamming it into 
the narrow crack between the doors. 

'What do you think you're doing?' Mala asked in a 
sharp whisper. 

'Getting into the warehouse,' I said coldly. 'The quick 
way.' 

She saw the filament and recognized it. 'Don't be 
stupid,' she hissed. 'What if Rimeq is in there?' 

'I thought,' I said through clenched teeth, 'that finding 
Rimeq was the whole idea.' 

She snorted delicately. 'Just come away, and wait. 
I've put in a call to the FedPol. There'll be a full raiding 
party here in a httle while.' 

I stared. 'The FedPol aren't allowed on Xyry, re- 
member?' 

'For Rimeq,' she said acidly, 'they'll stretch the rules. 
They can be in and out before anyone on Xyry knows.' 

It was my tum for a sarcastic snort. 'If Rimeq is in this 
warehouse,' I said, 'they might never get out.' 

'Don't be stupid,' she said again. And that was once 
too often. Angrily, I stepped away from the door, 
dragging her back with me, and touched a stud on my 
belt. 



77 



The crack between the doors became a line of Hvid 
fire, as the filament of shaped explosive ignited. Dark 
metal bubbled and melted, and in seconds the doors 
were hanging open like hmp wings. 

'You coming?' I snapped. And without waiting for 
Mala's answer, I strode through the opening. 

Or at least I began to stride through it. But it felt as if 1 
had walked into an invisible spider-web that had wrap- 
ped itself stickily around me. I found that I was still 
moving through the doors, but not under my own power. 
And beside me Mala too was sailing gracefully forward, 
carried by the same invisible force that was gripping me. 

And within, waiting for us, stood Rimeq the Re- 
negade . 

His monstrous mind-power, that held Mala and me 
like a mesh of steel, slammed us back against the wall, 
our feet a metre from the floor. And he grinned at us, 
yellow-fanged, his eyes a lurid red in the gloomy interior 
of the warehouse. 

'The snooper from Earth, who should have died in the 
sky-bar,' he gloated. 'With a female. How convenient 
that you should come to me to be killed.' 

I didn't reply, because I was staring at the clutter of 
machinery on a bench behind the monster. At its centre 
was a large, plain cube of grey metal, which might have 
been anything. But something about it made the cold- 
ness within me turn to soUd ice. I knew I was looking at 
the nullity bomb. 

Mala, for her part, was not silenced. 'It doesn't matter 
what you do to us, you maniac. There's a FedPol team 
on its way right now!' 

If I could have moved, I would have given her a very 
dirty look. First, it did matter -to me, anyway-what the 
monster did to us. Second, she had said too much, since 
the only sUm chance the FedPol had lay in a surprise 
attack. 

Rimeq's fanged grin widened. 'Thank you for warning 



78 



me,' he said silkily. 'They will find nothing here but your 
corpses.' 

I braced myself, believing that he would kill us at 
once. But instead he turned to the large grey cube on the 
bench behind him. It rose into the air and floated out of 
the warehouse, carried along by the power of Rimeq's 
mind. And I reahzed that he was getting the nulhty 
bomb to safety before he dealt with us. 

In the same instant I also realized - or guessed - 
something else, which filled me with a wild hope. 

At the moment that Rimeq had Ufted the bomb with 
his mind-power, his hold on Mala and me had slipped. 
Just a little, and for only a microsecond, but I had felt 
myself drop, a centimetre or so, before Rimeq's mmd 
recovered its firm grip. 

And during that instant the killer's mad red eyes had 
flickered, like candles in a wind. 

So there are limits to the mind-power, I thought. 
Maybe it's fading with age, for Rimeq had been around a 
long time. And if something could push the power past 
its limits, or break his concentration. . . . 

'Wouldn't it be funny,' I said chattily to Mala, 'if he 
accidentally dropped the bomb and wiped out this whole 
planet, including himself?' 

Mala's glare showed that she didn't think it would be 
at all funny. And Rimeq glared too, but his eyes were 
still flickering. 'The bomb cannot explode until it 
reaches your home world, fool.' 

I made myself go on sounding jaunty. 'It won't even 
get near,' I said. 'This entire planet is ringed with FedPol 
monitor ships. No space vehicle of any sort can leave the 
surface of Xyry without being checked.' 

It wasn't true, but it made the red eyes flicker more 
rapidly. Again I felt myself jerk and drop a little, as he 
lost concentration. But he regained it at once. 

'They will not stop me,' he growled. 'The bomb is 
smaller than any spacecraft - it will escape the monitors. 



79 



I am lifting it to a nearby asteroid where I have a robot 
ship that will carry it to Earth. Nothing can prevent it.' 

'Really powerful, that mind of yours,' I said easily. 
'But it won't do the trick. The FedPol spotted your 
robot ship two days ago and took control of it. You're 
finished, killer.' 

I was taking quite a chance. Rimeq could simply have 
finished me, and Mala, right then. But I was hoping that 
he'd be more concerned about the nulhty bomb, and his 
robot ship. And I beUeved that his natural cruelty would 
make him wait, so that he could turn his full attention to 
killing us, slowly, later. 

And I was right. As Mala stared at me, clearly 
thinking I'd gone out of my mind, Rimeq gave a strained 
growl. He might have suspected that I was bluffing, but 
he couldn't take the chance. The flickering of his eyes 
worsened, and the tendons and muscles of his great neck 
tightened and bulged with tension. And I knew that he 
was reaching into space with his mind-power, to grasp 
his robot ship and tear it, as he thought, out of the 
control of the FedPol. 

The strain must have been terrible. Not only reaching 
that distance, and moving a mass that large, but at the 
same time keeping his mental grip on the nuUity bomb 
and on us. Something, I hoped, would have to give. 

But I was wrong. Rimeq' s power might have been 
fading, but it was still enormous. Mala and I were still 
held off the ground, unable to move. 

I racked my brain to think of some other strain I could 
put on to his power. But even if I had thought of 
something to say, Rimeq might not have heard me. He 
was concentrating furiously, and his grunting, laboured 
growls seemed to fill the warehouse. . . . 

And then I realized that some of those sounds were 
coming from outside. Not growling, but the throbbing 
rumble of sky-cruisers. The FedPol squad had arrived, 
just when it was needed. 



80 



Rimeq heard them, too, and his growling became a 
defiant roar. His entire body tensed, trembling slightly, 
and his eyes seemed almost to spin in their sockets. And, 
outside, I heard the FedPol cruisers stutter, whine and 
then go silent. 

Rimeq had found the strength to reach them with his 
mind-power. But it was nearly too much for him - and 
this time something did give. I felt myself drifting to the 
ground, and saw Mala doing the same. And I could 
move, as if I was neck-deep in thick oil, but enough. 

I might then have drawn my guns and shot him down. 
But I never was cold-blooded enough for that kind of 
execution, not even of a monster like Rimeq. 

Instead, I pulled all my rings off my fingers. And I 
flung them high in the air, towards the straining, 
agonized monster. 

'They're grenades, Rimeq!' I yelled. 'Catch them, or 
you're dead!' 

Once again he couldn't take the chance that I was 
bluffing. His face twisted in a terrible grimace, his body 
twitched and quivered, his growls became a low, tor- 
mented moan. And the rings halted, suspended in 
mid-air. 

But they weren't still - they trembled, and bobbed up 
and down. And then they proved to be, as the old Earth 
saying has it, the last straw. They were small and Ught, 
but on top of the bomb, the robot ship, the cruisers, and 
the loosening grip on Mala and myself, they were too 
much. 

Rimeq opened his fanged mouth and screamed a high, 
ragged scream that was the worst sound I had ever 
heard. And then he toppled backwards hke a felled tree. 

Released, all my rings dropped to the floor. But 
harmlessly, since I hadn't primed any of them to 
explode. 

And the FedPol cruisers, their engines restored, 
roared in for a landing. 



81 



Later I learned that Rimeq had succeeded in getting 
the robot ship into space, and placing the nulhty bomb in 
it. The FedPol's search found the ship, drifting harmless- 
ly, and they were able to disarm the bomb. But they 
didn't need to disarm Rimeq. 

That last terrible effort had burned out his mind. His 
body remained in excellent health, but it was an empty, 
mindless shell, able to do nothing but huddle, blank- 
eyed, in a prison hospital bed. 

Mala said at the time that she almost felt sorry for him. 
And I laughed. I haven't seen her since. . . . 



The End 



Flight to Destruction 



With the good sense of a careful man, I decided to take 
the easy route first. I turned away from the chill black 
gape of the tunnel mouth and went to have a look at 
Rimeq' s ship. 

After a few more sharp rocks cracked my shins in the 
darkness, I got close enough to study it. It was a bulky 
craft, but looked powerful. I was sure it was Rimeq' s 
personal ship, which made me badly want to get in. But 
there were problems. 

Five problems, in fact - five exter guards, ranging 
from a squat, metal- skinned Brygonian to a spidery, 
ten-limbed thing from Dree. They were armed to the 
teeth, those that had teeth, and were alert and watchful. 

I was too far away to throw one of my mini-weapons 
into their midst. And I couldn't get closer without being 
spotted. For a heart-sinking moment I thought I might 
have to go back to the tunnel. But then the idea came to 
me. If I couldn't get a weapon to them, why not bring 
them to a weapon? 

The jewelled pendant around my neck is a powerful 
short-range communicator and receiver. 1 fiddled with it 
a moment, and then tuned it to the Xyrean media and 
picked up a broadcast of soothing music, which was just 
the thing my nerves needed. Then I set the pendant 
down on a rock, and slid silently back into the darkness. 

Music carries a long way in a rocky wilderness, and it is 
not a threatening sound. 90 the five guards were more 
curious than nervous when they came out looking for the 
source of the sound. They moved skilfully, in a sweeping 



83 



search, but gathered round quickly when the spidery 
exter spotted the pendant. And puzzlement, plus some 
greed at the sight of the jewels, made them examine it 
closely. 

Until it exploded in their faces. 

I had replaced one of the pendant's jewels with a gas 
grenade from one of my rings. It burst with a gentle puff, 
which was followed by five meaty thuds, as the released 
gas sent the five exters into dreamland. They would stay 
there all night, but I was still hurrying as I sprang 
through the airlock of Rimeq's ship. 

Inside, it was comfortably fitted out for someone quite 
large. So it wus his personal craft. But that was less 
important than the control panel, which showed that the 
guidance system had already been programmed. And 
the course was set for Earth. It was this ship that would 
take Rimeq the Renegade and his nullity bomb on that 
journey towards mass murder. 

The bomb was probably in the tunnel with Rimeq 
right then. And 1 knew 1 would have to go in after them. 
But before I left the ship, I wanted to make some 
changes. 

My idea was what is called a fail-safe. Even if I failed 
to get Rimeq before he got me, I wanted to leave 
something in the ship that would defeat his plan to kill a 
world. 

I pulled away the covering of the control panel and 
went to work. 

I'm no genius at electronics or galactronics, but 1 knew 
enough, and 1 had the tools 1 needed in my belt. Even so, 
it was slow, careful, concentrated work. Too much so, 
because I ran out of time. 

1 finished what 1 was doing, replaced the covering, and 
was hurrying out through the ship's airlock when 1 felt as 
if I had run into a solid, invisible wall, which then 
wrapped around me and held me as if 1 was embedded in 
ice. 



84 



Only then did I notice that the first hght of dawn was 
showing on the horizon. But 1 wasn't looking at it. 1 was 
staring at the blazing crimson eyes of Rimeq the 
Renegade, standing outside the ship, his awesome 
mind-power holding me trapped like a fly in amber. 

'Curb, the Earthhng fool,' he hissed. 'I should have 
known you would be too stupid to stay away from me, 
though I have nearly killed you twice. This time, I will 
make sure.' 

He stalked forward and 1 saw something floating in the 
air behind him. A heavy cylinder of smooth dull metal, 
being carried along by part of that mind-power. And I 
knew that inside the cylinder was a mechanism that 
could wipe out all Ufe on Earth. 

As Rimeq entered the ship, both the bomb and I 
sailed along after him. He placed the bomb in a sturdy 
cradle of netting to protect it during lift-off. Then he 
placed me in a narrow storage compartment, filled with 
spare parts, repair equipment and other materials. 

'You may live a while yet, Earthman,' he snarled, 
through an evil, fanged grin. 'We will go together to see 
the final destruction of your world. And then when you 
are the last Earthling aUve, I will hurl you out of my ship 
" and let you make your own way home!' 

He laughed, an insane and savage giggle, and turned 
away. The door of the compartment slammed shut and 
locked and then the mind-power released me. I could 
move, even though there was nowhere to go. 

And yet, as the ship lifted off, I was laughing too. If 
my fail-safe worked, Rimeq and his bomb would never 
get to Earth. Nor would I, of course, but having just 
been that close to so much mad and murderous evil, it 
didn't seem too great a price to pay. 

But shortly afterwards the compartment door was 
wrenched open, and 1 was dragged out by another burst 
of that mind-power to face Rimeq's yellow-fanged, 
gloating grin. 



85 



'You tampered with my ship,' he said viciously. 'You 
reprogrammed the guidance system, so the ship would 
dive into the sun. And you are stupid enough to think I 
would not notice? Observe!' 

One huge clawed hand moved swiftly over the control 
panel, and I watched as the guidance settings flickered, 
blurred and then settled. Once again the ship was on 
course for Earth. 

I looked as wretched and miserable as a man will look 
when his plans collapse round him - fatally. And 
Rimeq's mad laughter followed me, as his mind-power 
flung me b&ck into the prison of the storage compart- 
ment. 

There I sat, trapped. But I remained cahn, waiting. 
And counting. 

I was calm because I had half-expected that Rimeq 
would check his controls, and spot the changed settings, 
before we got too close to the sun. But I may have 
mentioned that I'm the careful sort. And Rimeq was not. 
He was gloating so much over havmg found my fail-safe 
trick that he never stopped to thmk there might be more 
than one. 

So I waited, and counted. 

And when the count got to a certain number - the 
front of the ship erupted in a titanic explosion of searing 
flame. 

The junk in the compartment flew through the air, and 
I felt something crash into the back of my head, and then 
I no longer felt anything. 

And to be honest, it was a huge surprise to me that I 
woke up, and found myself still alive, and free of the 
mind-power. 

My second fail-safe had been intended to finish Rimeq 
-and I'd been quite willing to go with him if 1 had to. But 
I hadn't. And I sat there for a moment doing a Uttle 
gloating of my own. 

The nice thing about computers, in ship guidance 



86 



systems or anywhere, is that they do what they're told - 
whoever tells them, or whatever it is. And when I had 
re-set Rimeq's guidance system to the new course that 
would have taken us into the sun, I had given the 
guidance computer another instruction. 

I had told it that if anyone reprogrammed it back to 
the original course - which led to Earth - it should 
self-destruct. And I had wired all my most powerful 
weapons into it, to help it to do so. 

Obediently, when Rimeq had restored the course for 
Earth, the computer had triggered the explosion. 

Since I was still aUve, it was only the front half of the 
ship that had been wrecked. But I knew my weapons 
well enough to know that it would not just be damaged. 
It would be incinerated. And Rimeq with it. And the 
nulUty bomb. 

1 didn't know how long my half of the ship would last, 
but 1 was humming quietly as 1 began sorting through the 
clutter of the storage room. With those spare parts and 
other equipment, I was confident that I could patch 
together some kind of survival pod, and maybe even an 
SOS beacon. 

It's amazing how finishing off the most deadly killer in 
the galaxy can boost a man's confidence. 



The End 



87